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Medical Care:
doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181653d58
Original Article

Physician Implicit Attitudes and Stereotypes About Race and Quality of Medical Care

Sabin, Janice A. PhD, MSW*; Rivara, Frederick P. MD, MPH†‡; Greenwald, Anthony G. PhD§

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Background: Recent reports speculate that provider implicit attitudes about race may contribute to racial/ethnic health care disparities.

Objectives: We hypothesized that implicit racial bias exists among pediatricians, implicit and explicit measures would differ and implicit measures may be related to quality of care.

Research Design: A single-session, Web survey of academic pediatricians in an urban university measured implicit racial attitudes and stereotypes using a measure of implicit social cognition, the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Explicit (overt) attitudes were measured by self-report. Case vignettes were used to assess quality of care.

Results: We found an implicit preference for European Americans relative to African Americans, which was weaker than implicit measures for others in society (mean IAT score = 0.18; P = 0.01; Cohen's d = 0.41). Physicians held an implicit association between European Americans relative to African Americans and the concept of “compliant patient” (mean IAT score = 0.25; P = 0.001; Cohen's d = 0.60) and for African Americans relative to European Americans and the concept of “preferred medical care” (mean IAT score =−0.21; P = 0.001; Cohen's d = 0.64). Medical care differed by patient race in 1 of 4 case vignettes. No significant relationship was found between implicit and explicit measures, or implicit measures and treatment recommendations.

Conclusions: Pediatricians held less implicit race bias compared with other MDs and others in society. Among pediatricians we found evidence of a moderate implicit “perceived patient compliance and race” stereotype. Further research is needed to explore whether physician implicit attitudes and stereotypes about race predict quality of care.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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