Conscious and Unconscious Biases in Health Care

3. Bias and Well-Meaning People

The Impact of Biases on Health and Health CareHealth care practitioners and other health professionals generally expect themselves to be unaffected by the social or demographic characteristics of a given patient or cultural group. People with egalitarian values and beliefs, including health care professionals, often have a difficult time accepting that they harbor prejudicial attitudes or would do anything that would be negative toward another person. And yet, as reported by the Institute of Medicine’s landmark study, it is the practitioner’s expression of bias that contributes to health care disparities.(p19) How does one explain this apparent contradiction?

Much of the current health care literature about bias focuses predominantly on interactions between White practitioners and patients from racial and ethnic groups other than non-Hispanic White. This reflects a limitation in the extant literature as no group is immune from bias. As you will explore in the course module, What’s a Well -Meaning Health Profession to Do?, bias is present even among practitioners within the same cultural group as their patients.

Let’s hear about how even well-meaning people can inadvertently perpetuate biases unconsciously from Dr. David Wofsy, University of California San Francisco:

Dr. David Wofsy
University of California San Francisco
Professor of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology
Associate Dean of Admissions
San Francisco, California