Health disparities at the point of care occur when different demographic groups experience inequitable treatment while interacting with health systems, care teams, and staff. This inequitable treatment can negatively impact clinical outcomes, patient safety, length of stay, readmissions, and the patient experience.
Disparities in care delivery are often caused by the patient-provider interactions and other health care system-level factors listed in the rightmost column of the table above. Disparities at the point of care can result from an insufficient understanding of patient needs, to bias and discrimination from the level of the entire health care industry to the individual provider level.
Historically, health care has been unequally allocated among demographic groups. And despite changes in policy and public sentiment, this historical legacy continues to negatively influence the modern health care industry and perpetuates inequitable care delivery.
While most clinicians are committed to treating patients equally, they still operate within a society and health care industry that is inherently biased and unjust. Clinicians, like the rest of the general population, hold explicit and implicit biases. Clinicians’ implicit biases, or their unconscious attitudes and stereotypes about groups of people, can easily affect the way they treat patients. These unconscious views can lead clinicians to make unintentional judgments and ultimately contribute to unequal treatment and worse health outcomes for certain patient populations.