Does Patient-Centered Care Affect Racial Disparities in Health?
Slade, Catherine Putnam
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This thesis presents a challenge to policy initiatives that presume that patient-centered care will reduce racial disparities in health. Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey were used to test patient assessment of provider behavior defined as patient-centered care according to the National Health Disparities Report of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the Department of Health and Human Services. Results indicated patient-centered care improves self-rated health status, but blacks still report worse health status than whites experiencing comparable patient-centered care. Further, black-white differences in patient-centered care had no affect on health status. Rival theories of black-white differences in health, including social class and health literacy, provided better explanations of disparities than assessment of provider behaviors. These findings suggest that policies designed to financially incentivize patient-centered care practices by providers should be considered with caution. While patient-centered care is better quality care, financial incentives could have a negative effect on minority health if providers are deterred from practices that serve disproportionate numbers of poor and less literate patients and their families. Measurement of the concept of patient-centered care in future health disparities research was also discussed.