Reducing Racial Bias Among Health Care Providers

Lessons from Social-Cognitive Psychology

This article outlines a number of interventions that may be useful in preventing racial bias and stereotyping in clinical encounters. The authors draw upon a highly developed body of research from social cognitive psychology to recommend a set of evidence-based strategies. They propose a series of objectives and discuss the rationale behind them as a way of establishing a foundation on which current and future interventions to reduce racial attitudes might build. These include improving a physician's ability to develop partnerships with patients, enhancing physician empathy, encouraging positive emotional states in the physician, increasing confidence in a physician's ability to interact with a diverse group of patients, and exploring techniques that reveal and reduce prejudice.

The recommended protocols rely on promoting the cognitive strategy of individuation in which the health care provider focuses on the specific attributes of an individual as opposed to seeing the patient through a filter of group membership such as race. The researchers hope the framework suggested in this article will help health educators and administrators to include certain components in training programs that attempt to reduce prejudice and bias.