Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

2006 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

1062 — Racial Differences in Doctors’ Information Giving and Patients’ Participation

Author List:
Gordon HS (Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies)
Street RL (Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies)

Racial disparities in treatment of lung cancer are well documented but poorly explained.

We investigated whether doctor-patient communication differs by race. Eligible patients had pulmonary nodules or lung cancer and were seen in thoracic surgery or oncology clinics for initial treatment recommendations at a large southern VA from 2001-2004. Patients self-identified as black (n=30) or white (n=107). Consultations were audiotaped, transcribed, and unitized into utterances. Utterances were coded into categories including doctors’ information-giving (e.g. diagnoses, definitions, rationales, instructions, options, risks, benefits) and patients’ active participation (e.g., questions, assertions, concerns). Information giving was further coded as self-initiated by the doctor or prompted by the patient. Data were compared by patient race using t-tests or chi-square tests. We used mixed linear regression to determine the independent predictors of doctors' information giving, controlling for patient clustering by doctor.

Patient demographics, clinical site, and health status were similar by race (P>0.05). Compared with white patients, consultations with black patients, on average, had fewer doctors’ information giving utterances (49.3 vs. 87.3; P<0.001) and fewer acts of patient participation (21.4 vs. 37.2; P<0.001). Also, both prompted and self-initiated doctors’ information-giving were less frequent in consultations with black compared with white patients (14.5 vs. 34.6; P=0.001 and 34.8 vs. 52.6; P=0.02). In mixed regression analyses, blacks received 24.3 fewer (P=0.01) information giving utterances than whites, controlling for clustering by doctor and other potential covariates. When patients’ active participation was added to the model, doctors’ information-giving did not differ significantly (P=0.54) by patient race, but each act of patient participation was associated with a significant (P=0.001) increase in information from the doctor.

Black patients received less information from doctors in association with less active participation, in this sample of initial consultations for lung cancer. The results suggest that differences in information giving by race are related to the mutuality of communication in medical consultations.

Racial variation in doctor-patient communication becomes an issue of concern especially when considering a growing body of research that links patterns of communication to outcomes of care. Fortunately, communication is a skill that can be taught.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.