Health Views Differ Along Ethnic Lines

Kevin Freking, AP, March 11, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP)—Minorities are more likely than white patients to rate their health care as fair or poor, a view that is particularly true among Chinese-Americans, blacks born in Africa and Vietnamese-Americans.

Researchers have long stressed that improving patients’ perception of their care is important to improving outcomes. That’s because negative experiences can lead to less time spent with a physician and poor communications between doctor and patient.

To get a more detailed view of the differing perceptions that patients have, researchers at Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation surveyed 4,334 adults last year. The researchers asked patients such questions as how quickly they were able to get an appointment the last time they were sick and whether their doctor explained things in a way the patient could understand. The researchers found that whites routinely rated their experience higher than did the minority patients, who still had largely favorable views of their care.

For example, 91 percent of whites rated their care as excellent or good. That percentage fell for most ethnic groups, with the lowest ratings recorded among Chinese-Americans, 74 percent; African-Americans born in Africa, 73 percent; and Vietnamese-Americans, 72 percent.

When it came to getting an appointment, about 63 percent of whites were able to get an appointment on the same day or the next day after they became sick or injured. That percentage dropped to 42 percent for Cuban-Americans and 39 percent for African-Americans born in the Caribbean.

About three-quarters of whites reported that their doctor listened carefully to them. That percentage fell to 62 percent for Korean-Americans and 58 percent for those from Central America or South America.

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The report will be published in the journal Health Affairs.

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