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How Does Implicit Bias Affect Health Care? June 24, 2020

Midtown East, Manhattan
How Does Implicit Bias Affect Health Care?, Manhattan, New York

Over two decades ago, the Institute of Medicine evaluated the quality of health care among various minority groups. Their results found a severe problem that still hasn’t been entirely eliminated: implicit bias. Those who devote their lives to healing and wellness need to be aware of this problem so that they can compensate for their own biases and ensure all their patients receive quality care. 

Defining Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is characterized by unconscious judgments and behaviors that are fueled by subtle stereotypes. While overt racism is obvious and impossible to ignore, implicit bias is subtle. Many healing and wellness providers may not even be aware that it’s a problem for them. 

When treating patients of a different race, age, or sexual orientation, physicians may be less inclined to take concerns or complaints seriously. They may overlook problematic signs or symptoms or neglect them during hospital stays. Some professionals falsely believe that black people feel less pain, and this can result in prescribing an inadequate amount of medication.

Unfortunately, implicit bias doesn’t only affect patient care. It can also impact hiring, promotions, and standard operating procedures. Administrators and staff members must combat implicit bias during all interactions to ensure equal opportunities and a fair workplace. 

Combating Implicit Bias 

healing and wellnessHealing and wellness practitioners must identify their assumptions and false judgments to prevent them from affecting the care they provide. They should take actionable steps to reevaluate their initial responses. This may involve recognizing that an interaction is being affected by a stereotype and adjusting your reaction accordingly.

Networking with other providers can help you understand diversity and explore various points of view. Discussing past cases with other clinicians will undoubtedly reveal the vast differences among patients, including those who belong to the same culture. 

Administrators can combat implicit bias by training their staff members to see patients as individuals rather than as part of a certain group. When hiring and promoting employees, they should consider only what the candidates bring to the table, like their education and experience, and not their personal characteristics. 


To network with other clinicians and better understand your own biases, turn to Metro Collaborative™. Based in New York City, this health care networking group provides a supportive community where clinicians can connect and learn from each other. Their offerings include peer-to-peer dinners, leadership retreats, and business coaching services, which you can read about on their website. To talk to a member of their team, call (609) 876-9163.

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