Patient-Physician Pairing: Does Racial and Ethnic Congruity Influence Selection of a Regular Physician?


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Abstract

Many public and private sector efforts are devoted toward increasing the training of physicians from under-represented minority groups, yet little has been documented regarding the association between physicians' racial backgrounds and the patient populations they serve. To address this question, we use 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey to examine the impact of race/ethnicity on the matching between physician and patients. Our results show that minority patients are significantly more likely to report having a minority physician as their regular doctor. We estimate that minority patients are five times as likely as non-minorities to report that their regular physician is a member of a racial/ethnic minority. This effect is especially pronounced among Hispanics who identify a Hispanic physician as their regular provider 19 times more often than non-minorities. After controlling for other socio-economic factors, both these figures remain significant, but drop by approximately one-half. These results support the notion that minority patients tend to see minority physicians at a disproportional rate independent of other socio-economic factors.

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