3 min read

News Roundup | Week of January 1, 2018

1/5/18 10:52 AM

QI News Roundup 1-1-18.png

Unconscious Bias Impacts Non-White Maternal Health

In the U.S., black and brown women are more likely to experience medical complications in pregnancy than white women, and their babies are more likely to die or have serious health problems. This disparity is one reason why the U.S. has such high maternal and infant mortality rates compared with other developed countries.

As recent reporting shows (see past Roundups 12/4/17 and 12/18/17), this gap is rooted in healthcare providers' unconscious biases surrounding race and ethnicity, and cannot be explained by socioeconomic differences.

From the article:

These disparities seem likely to be rooted in negative biases. Links between unequal health outcomes and race or ethnicity are often chalked up to confounding differences in socioeconomic status, behaviors impacting health, and access to health care providers. However, if this were the case, then they should disappear, or at least diminish, with increasing education and income.

And they don’t. As obstetrician and scholar Karen A. Scott explained to me: “African Americans in the highest socioeconomic group experience the same or higher rates of infant mortality, low birthweight, and high blood pressure and excess weight during pregnancy in comparison with white women in the lowest socioeconomic statuses.”

Learning to recognize and overcome unconscious bias could be a key component to reversing this trend and improving maternal mortality rates.

The Elephant in the Delivery Room: How Doctor Bias Hurts Black and Brown Mothers, from NBC News


Proper Medical Interpretation Scarce in U.S. Hospitals

Under Federal law, hospitals must provide medical interpreters to patients who need them. But far too often, hospitals rely on family members or bystanders to translate complex medical diagnoses and treatment plans. This results in poorer outcomes and less adherence to medical advice. The cost of interpreter services is not prohibitive, and can prevent loss of funding, hefty fines, and lawsuits. So why don't hospitals have clear protocols in place for engaging medical interpreters?

From the article:

The right to understand what doctors are doing to your body is fundamental. The right to know your own diagnosis is basic, to know when surgery is being performed on what, to understand why people are putting needles and tubes inside you. Interpreting isn’t too expensive—it’s essential to providing accurate medical care. Hospitals’ failure to appreciate and act on this is not a failure that we should dismiss for mere budgeting. It’s a manifestation of racism that should no longer have a place in our society.

It’s Illegal for Hospitals to Not Provide Translation Services. So Why Is Proper Translation Still Scarce?, from Slate


Medical Jargon Impedes Communication in Healthcare

Doctor-patient communication is essential to successful medical care. But the use of medical jargon has a negative impact on patients' understanding of diagnoses and treatment plans. Many commonly-used medical terms are widely misunderstood, leaving a wide gap between what practitioners believe their patients understand, and the reality of their misconception. Unaddressed gaps in health literacy result in non-adherence to prescribed plans and poorer health outcomes.

From the article:

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, providers in many fields, including emergency room settings, surgery requiring anesthetics and breast cancer clinics, grapple with how best to effectively communicate with patients.

Efforts to bridge this gap include encouraging the use of plainer language in written materials and providing interpreting services for non-English speakers.

Medical Jargon May Cloud Doctor-Patient Communication, from Reuters


Racial Disparities Persist in Kidney Transplantation

Over the past 20 years, there has been an effort to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of live donor kidney transplantation. But a new study in JAMA shows that the gap has widened between white donor recipients and black, Hispanic, and Asian recipeints. This suggests more work must be done to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.

From the article:

Among adult first-time kidney transplantation candidates in the United States who were added to the deceased donor kidney transplantation waiting list between 1995 and 2014, disparities in the receipt of live donor kidney transplantation increased from 1995-1999 to 2010-2014. These findings suggest that national strategies for addressing disparities in receipt of live donor kidney transplantation should be revisited.

Association of Race and Ethnicity With Live Donor Kidney Transplantation in the United States From 1995 to 2014, from JAMA



Megan Bedford

Written by Megan Bedford

Megan Bedford is Vice President of Content & Marketing for Quality Interactions.