How Patient Descriptors Influence Racial Bias in the Electronic Health Record

On this episode of Managed Care Cast, we speak with Michael Sun, a medical student at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, who served as first author of a Health Affairs study showing that race and bias were significantly associated with negative patient descriptors in the electronic health record.

Although racism and bias have been long documented issues affecting health equity, findings of a recent study published in Health Affairs indicates these issues may be more embedded in the US health care system than originally thought.

Examining electronic health records (EHRs) from an urban academic medical center, researchers found that negative descriptors were significantly more likely to appear in the records of Black patients compared with White patients. Other factors—such as insurance type, marriage status, and even the COVID-19 pandemic—influenced the odds of having this potentially stigmatizing language appear in a patient’s EHR.

On this episode of Managed Care Cast, we speak with the first author on the study, Michael Sun, a medical student at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, on the findings, as well as the steps that can be taken to increase awareness among clinicians of these stigmatizing descriptors.

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