Implicit bias

How to mitigate the unconscious biases that harm patients in health care

Executive Summary

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The 5-second version:

Download this cheat sheet to get smart on implicit bias—fast. We cover what it is, why it matters, and how to address it.

The 1-minute version:

Implicit biases, also called unconscious biases, are attitudes toward or stereotypes about groups of people that are made without consciously thinking about them. External forces, such as the news media, education, cultural narratives, and systemic inequities, powerfully shape and reinforce implicit attitudes and stereotypes.

While bias is natural, these cognitive shortcuts can result in prejudgments that lead to rash decisions and discriminatory practices. This is evident in health care, where implicit bias contributes to worse health outcomes for certain groups of patients.

Health care leaders and clinicians must take steps to mitigate the impact of implicit bias on patient experiences and outcomes. Organizations should focus efforts both on changing institutional processes that perpetuate structural biases and on helping clinicians understand and address the biases in their immediate control.

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