Conscious and Unconscious Biases in Health Care

What the Literature is Telling Us

The great majority of this literature focused on provider or practitioner bias rather than bias on the part of the patient. Only a few studies addressed conscious bias, whereas most focused on unconscious bias among the diverse array of health care practitioners and professionals.

Commensurate with the fact that all humans are “hard wired” for bias, the body of research reviewed revealed many areas of bias that impact health and health care. Below are numerous characteristics and sociocultural identities that arouse bias among health care practitioners and health professionals.

Identified Areas of Bias in the Environmental Scan

  • Age;
  • Disability;
  • Education;
  • English language proficiency and fluency (including the capacity to speak Standard English for native-born English speakers);
  • Ethnicity;
  • Health status;
  • Disease/diagnosis (HIV/AIDS);
  • Insurance;
  • Obesity;
  • Race;
  • Socioeconomic status (SES);
  • Sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression;
  • Skin tone;
  • Substance use (injection drug user); and
  • Social contact (amount of contact that practitioners have with patient populations).