Doctors are biased against patients. Is that a problem?

Forty percent of physicians report that they’re biased against certain groups of patients, finds a new national survey from Medscape out Wednesday.

Some of the factors that were reported to trigger bias: emotional problems, weight, language disparities, and insurance coverage.

Still, most respondents (more than 85 percent of physicians in each specialty) insist their biases don’t affect the care they’re providing.

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Interestingly, the specialties that interact the least with patients — pathology and radiology — were also the ones that reported the least amount of bias. ER doctors, on the other hand, who interact regularly with patients from many backgrounds, were most likely to express some kind of bias.

Other findings:

  • About half of all doctors (56 percent of male physicians, 48 percent of female physicians) said they find themselves feeling biased because of a patient’s weight.
  • Physicians were torn on whether bias is a bad problem to have in providing care. Many doctors said bias can actually have positive effects, like making them more empathetic or willing to devote more time to a patient.
  • Very few doctors admitted to gender bias — just 8 percent of male doctors and 7 percent of female doctors said they take it into consideration.

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