Top 5 Unconscious Biases in Healthcare – MTI America

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Top 5 Unconscious Biases in Healthcare

Top 5 Unconscious Biases in Healthcare

We all want to feel included, and if you are left out or pushed to the side, you wonder if you did something wrong. Though you did nothing wrong, someone has judged you based on your race, age, sexual orientation, and life experiences. Biases do the most harm when they are by people in healthcare, employers, or law enforcement officers. When bias is experienced in healthcare, it may directly affect a patient’s health outcomes and quality of life.

It is human nature to be biased based on our backgrounds and experiences. However, this is often not intentional, and many with an unconscious bias would take it back if given a chance. Everyone reacts with either a conscious bias (also known as explicit) or unconscious bias (also known as implicit) to every situation. Here is a list of the top 5 unconscious biases in healthcare.

Race and Ethnicity Bias
Placing a prejudgment of a person based on race and ethnicity stereotypes, for example, people in X group are not as capable as people from Y group or X people are untrustworthy. You can easily fall into the trap of categorizing people based on specific characteristics or ideas about the group. Therefore, your judgment will impact your actions and decisions.

Age Bias
According to KHN.org, nearly 20% of Americans ages 50 and older say they have experienced discrimination in healthcare, which can result in improper or inadequate care. Ageism is age-related discrimination that leads to access or denial of healthcare services and treatments. An age-friendly system will help everyone, including our future selves.

Gender Bias
Gender bias is a set of beliefs that favors one gender over another. For example, there may be skepticism surrounding female-reported pain and emotional distress, assuming women exaggerate their symptoms. Gender bias affects diagnosis, treatment, and health outcomes. It is important to understand that specific health issues can differ based on gender.

Overweight and Obesity
Often overweight people are labeled as lazy, weak, and lacking self-control. The way we treat overweight people can attribute to a person’s symptoms of their obesity. Healthcare professionals may blame serious health issues on weight, therefore, unintentionally ignoring other possible causes.

Socioeconomic Status
Patient status is contingent on economic factors such as income and employment. Research shows some physicians assume someone of low socioeconomic status is not as rational and may not comply with medical advice or return for necessary treatment.  Communication will increase your familiarity with the challenges a patient faces and can help combat socioeconomic biases.

Overcoming unconscious bias isn’t easy. It requires lifelong time and attention. We need to incorporate a more person-centered approach to communication and listen to the individual without judgment—inequality can lead to false assumptions and adverse outcomes.

Join our webinar, “Diversity and Inclusion in Workers’ Compensation, “to learn how to identify and evaluate your own biases.