Using Standardized Encounters to Understand Reported Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Patient Experiences with Care

This article examines whether patient ratings of health care experiences reflect true differences based on race or ethnicity or differences in expectation or use of survey instruments. The study assessed the response of different racial and ethnic groups to standardized vignettes on health care service.

The authors conducted multivariate analyses on data from a sample of 567 respondents in 2008. The participants assessed written and videotaped health care encounters using the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey. The participants also answered a series of questions to capture their expectations for physician and health care. Of the 567 participants, 204 were White, 163 were Black, and 200 were Latino.

Key Findings:

  • Different races and ethnicities had similar expectations regarding physician behavior.
  • The study found no evidence that African-Americans, Latinos, or Whites responded more negatively to identical vignettes of health care encounters. African-Americans and Latinos were more likely to use both the positive and negative extremes of the ranking system than White participants.