A female African American medical professional wearing blue scrubs sits with another African American woman and fills out a form in a hospital setting.

How We Can Fix Racial Inequity in Healthcare

One of the most prevalent issues that Black Americans have to tackle throughout their lives is the issue of racial inequity in the healthcare system. This inequity can be seen throughout the entirety of the healthcare system with African Americans at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, among other severe medical conditions and illnesses. These dispartiries are one reason why Black Americans have a life expectancy four years lower than their peers.
Acknowledging and finding ways to resolve racial inequity in the healthcare system is truly a matter of life or death for Black Americans.

What Patient Satisfaction Surveys Can Tell Us About Racial Disparities In Healthcare

Consumer Assessments of Healthcare Providers (CAHPS) are designed to monitor patient feedback on their visits but may fall short of finding racial inequities patients were subjected to during their visits.
Researcher Kevin Nguyen was compiling data from such surveys in his work at the Brown University School of Public Health when he saw an issue around healthcare equity and decided to look deeper. Nguyen examined four common areas of care received by ethnic minority groups and their white peers to determine where they fall short across ethnic groups. These areas included:
  • Access to needed care
  • Access to a personal doctor
  • Timely access to a checkup or routine care
  • Timely access to specialty care
“This was pretty universal across races. So Black beneficiaries; Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander beneficiaries; and Hispanic or Latino or Latinx/Latine beneficiaries reported worse experiences across the four measures,” said Nguyen.

What Can Be Done About Racial Inequity in the Healthcare System?

While there’s no one size fits all solution to resolving racial inequity in the healthcare system, there are some paths forward on the systematic level. When it comes to how healthcare surveys can be impacted, a few options are:
  • Direct outreach to patients in order to better understand their needs (e.g. Asking patients why they were unable to attend checkups).
  • Explicitly asking patients if they were discriminated against based on their race on surveys.
  • Asking patients if they felt like they could trust the medical care provider.

Robert F. Smith and Breaking Down Inequality in Healthcare

Robert F. Smith is an advocate when it comes to supporting undervalued communities, especially in medicine and health research. He’s worked to fund testing and research on prostate cancer with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, including helping to create the Smith Polygenic Risk Test and to fund the Robert Frederick Smith Precision Oncology Center of Excellence in Chicago, located at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Smith also helped to create the Mount Sinai Robert F. Smith Mobile Prostate Cancer Screening Unit, which brings advanced equipment and specialized staff directly into underserved communities to test for this disease.
To learn more about inequity in the healthcare system, read about how prostate cancer affects Black men.