Addressing implicit biases in the treatment of pain for rheumatoid arthritis
Discrepancies caused by implicit bias can affect proper patient care.
Hi, Dr. Ortiz. How do implicit biases affect how pain is treated? [MUSIC PLAYING]
Oh, wow, that's such an important issue and great question. It definitely affects it. So let's talk about that.
Each person's pain tolerance is different. Whether our pain tolerance is considered low or high, we rely on health care providers to properly analyze our pain
in order to provide the best and most accurate treatment. Unfortunately, medical professionals are not immune to implicit biases, which can affect
how people's pain is treated. Implicit bias is not the same as discrimination, racism, or prejudice. It's a subconscious association of characteristics
based on who a person is and influenced by cultural differences, the media, and personal experiences.
It's important to recognize the discrepancies in the treatment of pain and how it affects people of color. For example, a 2019 study had participants
who work in the medical field look at different pictures and identify which people were expressing pain on their face.
It found that white participants were more ready to acknowledge pain in the pictures of white people than in the pictures of Black people.
What's more is that people of color are generally seen as biologically stronger than white people and experience less pain than them
as well. A 2016 study found that 40% of first- and second-year medical students surveyed believe that Black
people's skin is thicker than white people's. Another study indicated that physicians were more likely to underestimate
the pain of Black patients relative to non-black patients. For example, if a Black person says their pain level is an eight on a scale of 1 to 10,
it may be treated as only a five due to medical professionals underestimating what their patients are telling them.
In addition, when treating pain, people of color generally receive lower doses of analgesics or painkillers
within emergency rooms and post-operative settings. Of course, pain isn't always associated with a specific injury that is visible to the eye,
like the pain that often comes with rheumatoid arthritis. Fixing these discrepancies begins with education.
Health care providers can work to understand their own biases in order to better treat pain in patients of color.
This can be done through educational programs at the institutional level as well as thorough examination
of one's own implicit biases. These are critical steps to creating a more equitable health care system for all.
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