Shocking Survey Results Show Black Patients In California “Code Switch” To Avoid Medical Bias
Having to code switch at the doctor’s office is the last thing Black people need to deal with.
A new survey shows Black patients tend to modify their speech and “dress up” during appointments with the doctor in attempt to avoid medical bias.
California Healthline reports 32% of patients pay extra attention to how they dress while 35% switch up their speech to put doctors at ease. Over 40% of Black patients even make it known that they are educated, knowledgeable, and prepared.
The survey was funded by the California Health Care Foundation and titled “Listening to Black Californians: How the Health Care System Undermines Their Pursuit of Good Health,” with a goal of calling attention to the effort Black patients go to in order to receive quality care from health providers.
Dr. Michael LeNoir, an Oakland allergist and pediatrician who founded the African American Wellness Project, believes it goes past the doctor’s room.
“The system looks at us differently, not only in doctors’ offices,” LeNoir said. There is general discrimination, so we all learn the role.”
More shocking revelations found in the survey: one-third of Black patients bring a friend or family member with them into the exam room in order to observe practices by the doctor and speak up if they feel necessary. More importantly, over 25% of Black Californians avoid medical care all together out of fear of being treated unfairly.
Dr. Marilyn Singleton, a Black board-certified anesthesiologist, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about the medical bias expected of practicing physicians with a state law called Implicit Bias Training which took effect in 2022.
The law requires providers of “continuing medical education to include courses involving direct patient care,” something she deems harmful to doctors and patients. “There is a sad irony in all this, because the misguided focus on racism is intended to improve the health and well-being of Black patients in particular.”
It includes other bias targets such as gender identity, age and disability.
One survey participant feels as if Black patients aren’t speaking up enough after finding one-third reported receiving poor treatment by a health care provider because of race or ethnicity.
Before receiving a diagnosis of anemia and needing two blood transfusions, the participant said the advising doctor told her to exercise more and lose weight. “I feel like Black voices aren’t as loud, they are not taken as seriously,” she said. “In this case, I wasn’t listened to, and it ended up being a very serious, actually life-threatening problem.”