Shared Traits Between Patients and Providers Builds a Foundation of Trust

Our most recent white paper, A Provider Like Me: Research on Preferences, Care Selection, and Bias in Healthcare, explores how bias and discrimination in healthcare impact people’s behaviors. In a survey of 1,000 individuals representing a diverse demographic make-up, we found that people both experience—and are afraid of experiencing—discrimination in healthcare settings. We also learned that many individuals seek out providers with whom they share traits as a way to have a stronger patient-provider relationship and mitigate the potential for discrimination.

Below are some highlights from the report to help health plans empower their members to find the right providers.

The Fear of Discrimination in Healthcare Impacts Many

In our survey, 15% of respondents reported directly experiencing discrimination in healthcare. While this is troubling enough, we found that even more people expressed a concern about being discriminated against for the following reasons:

  • 26% report being very or extremely concerned about discrimination in healthcare based on the language they speak
  • 26% report being very or extremely concerned about discrimination in healthcare based on their ethnicity/race
  • 23% report being very or extremely concerned about discrimination in healthcare based on their gender
  • 20% report being very or extremely concerned about discrimination in healthcare based on sexual orientation

People Seek Providers with Shared Traits

When considering how bias impacts people’s healthcare behaviors, the survey found revealed that people tend to gravitate toward providers they share traits with:

  • Two thirds of people have a doctor who shares their gender
  • 80% of individuals who identify as Caucasian have a Caucasian doctor (56% of physicians in the United States identify as Caucasian), 80% of those who identify as Asian have an Asian doctor (17.1% of physicians identify as Asian), 36% of Hispanics have a Hispanic doctor (5.8% of physicians identify as Hispanic), 33% of African Americans have an African American physician (5% of physicians identify as African American)

Why do shared traits matter? About half of consumers feel that having shared traits with their healthcare providers assures better care and more open discussion, mostly due to the provider being more understanding (37%) and more relatable (26%). Providing details that empower individuals to better select a provider they share traits with can be a huge step forward for helping build trusting relationships between patients and their providers.

How Heath Plans Can Help

1. More is better when it comes to a provider profile

People want to understand more detailed information about their providers and are looking to health plans to provide this information. In the survey, 63% say they’ve used their health plan website to research a provider. People also want more detailed information about providers. In fact, when respondents were asked what would be useful if clearly listed in a provider directory:

  • 79% said that listing years in practice would be helpful
  • 77% said that listing specialization in condition or age would be helpful
  • 74% said listing a provider’s treatment philosophy would be helpful
  • 64% said listing a provider’s languages spoken would be helpful
  • 46% said sharing a provider’s picture would be helpful

2. Incorporate reviews of providers
Reviews are commonplace today, so why would healthcare be any different? In this survey, 82% of people have used or would use reviews, a powerful tool for peer-to-peer information sharing on personal experience with a provider. And when searching for a new provider in particular, reviews can help members make decisions. We found that 73% of respondents say ratings/reviews are important to them when searching for a new provider.

Only 33% of respondents reported having access to reviews and recommendations of doctors, clinics, and hospitals provided by patients, so this area of opportunity is a big one.

3. Share quality information

No matter the background, everyone wants quality care for themselves and their families. In fact, when searching for a new provider, 95% of respondents cited quality of care as an important characteristic they look for.

Providing more detailed provider information alone will not help solve decades of unequal access to care and discrimination toward women, people of color, and others. But provider directories do offer an opportunity for health plans to empower people to search for the right provider for them and find a provider they can trust, which can improve outcomes.

We hope you find this information useful as you continue to build strategies to support your diverse member populations. If you’d like to discuss the research further, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to chat.