Head: Study: Blacks with High Blood Pressure Lack Patient-Doctor Communication
“It seems that in general blacks talk less overall to their physicians than white patients,” said Dr. Crystal Wiley Cené, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and lead author of the study, in a statement. “As a result, communication about specific topics occurs less often.”
Cené and her colleagues analyzed audio recordings of patient visits with their primary care physician as part of a study of interventions that seek to improve patient adherence to high blood pressure therapy. The larger study was led by Dr. Lisa A. Cooper, a Johns Hopkins University professor.
Black patients were found to have had shorter office visits, less biomedical and psychosocial interaction, and less rapport-building with their doctors than white patients.
“There are several possible reasons why [blacks] may talk less to their physicians — they might not trust the physician or feel that they are ‘disconnected’ from their doctors, for whatever reasons,” Cené said. “This lack of communication by black patients may in turn make their physicians talk less to them.”
The study included 226 patients with high blood pressure and 39 physicians from 15 Baltimore, Maryland primary care practices. Researchers listened to recordings of patient visits and measured outcomes that included the length of visits, the number of statements devoted to communication during psychosocial exchange, and rapport building.
Cené’s study concluded that patient race was more important than the status of blood pressure control in determining patient-doctor communication quality. It recommended the testing of interventions designed to improve communication as a way to reduce racial disparities in the care of patients with hypertension.