Recent investigations of ethnicity related disparities in health care have focused on the contribution of providers’ implicit biases. A significant effect on health care outcomes is suggested, but the results are mixed. The purpose of this integrative literature review is to provide an overview and synthesize the current empirical research on the potential influence of health care professionals’ attitudes and behaviors towards ethnic minority patients on health care disparities.
Integrative literature review.
Four internet-based literature indexes – MedLine, PsychInfo, Sociological Abstracts and Web of Science – were searched for articles published between 1982 and 2012 discussing health care professionals’ attitudes or behaviors towards ethnic minority patients.
Thematic analysis was used to synthesize the relevant findings.
We found 47 studies from 12 countries. Six potential barriers to health care for ethnic minorities were identified that may be related to health care professionals’ attitudes or behaviors: Biases, stereotypes and prejudices; Language and communication barriers; Cultural misunderstandings; Gate-keeping; Statistical discrimination; Specific challenges of delivering care to undocumented migrants.
Data on health care professionals’ attitudes or behaviors are both limited and inconsistent. We thus provide reflections on methods, conceptualization, interpretation and the importance of the geographical or socio-political settings of potential studies. More empirical data is needed, especially on health care professionals’ attitudes or behaviors towards (irregular) migrant patients.