Clinicians more often use stigmatizing language in medical records when patients are Black, researchers from Princeton University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard University report in a new study.
The paper, published in JAMA Network Open on Thursday, analyzes 49,000 medical records of patients with diabetes, chronic pain or substance use disorder at a single, unnamed medical center and found 2.5% included stigmatizing language. Negative descriptors were more common in records for Black patients, the researchers discovered. Less-experienced physicians were more likely to use such language, the study shows.
The findings underscore the need for cultural competency training and a commitment to detail when describing patients' barriers to care, the authors wrote.
A growing body of research is documenting the biases clinicians perpetuate in EHRs and analyzing how they may affect health outcomes. Using language that negatively labels patients, assigns them blame or categorizes them as potentially dangerous could stigmatize them and jeopardize the quality of their care, the report says.Electronic health records play an increasingly significant role in how clinical teams communicate internally and with their patients. Since the 21st Century Cures Act began guaranteeing patients access to their medical records last year, providers have had to reconsider how they describe patients in EHRs.
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