In an ideal world, you’d go to the doctor, discuss why you came to see them, the doctor would believe you, and you’d receive the appropriate treatment for your needs. Unfortunately, patient stereotyping is a prevalent issue. From women’s complaints being brushed off as not that serious to overweight people being told their weight is the reason for all their health issues, there are many patient stereotypes out there that prevent people from receiving the care that they need.
Here, we’ll get into why patient stereotyping happens and how patients and doctors alike can avoid it. At Life Health Medical Center, we’re passionate about patient-centered approaches to wellness that identify the root causes of your concerns. If we adhered to patient-stereotyping, we would not be able to provide our patients with the care that suits their needs.
Why Does Patient Stereotyping Happen?
You know that saying, “stereotypes exist for a reason”? Every group has stereotypes associated with it because every group has people that fit those stereotypes. The problem, though, is when people assume that rather than those few people just being that way, they paint everyone in that group as being that way.
The reason why people stereotype is because the human brain is constantly trying to categorize people and objects into groups in order to make sense of the world. This is often unconscious. Many people, medical professionals included, don’t think that they stereotype, but the data shows otherwise.
Stereotypes can be very harmful and interfere with the ability to see people as individuals and empathize with their unique needs. We see the harm that stereotypes can cause all throughout society.
The Harm Of Patient Stereotyping
Patients can be stereotyped by their age, weight, sex, race, and social class. This can cause people to be distrustful of doctors, feel dissatisfied with the care they receive, and become less likely to seek preventative care measures, such as the yearly flu vaccine.
Healthcare professionals often don’t even realize that they’re perpetuating common stereotypes, but people who are at higher risk for patient stereotyping are often worse off in their health than others.
Patient stereotyping can lead to inequalities in care and cause healthcare professionals to not provide the best quality of care. For example, if a woman comes in complaining about pain and the healthcare provider brushes it off as her being hormonal or dramatizing, serious health conditions can be overlooked. If someone who is overweight comes in with a health concern, a healthcare provider only focusing on their weight can overlook other reasons why they may be experiencing that concern.
Hundreds of studies over the course of decades have documented the harm of patient stereotyping and the inequalities in medical care.
How To Avoid Patient Stereotyping
More and more, medical professionals are being trained on how to avoid patient stereotyping. Such training includes steps like:
- Putting themselves in their patient’s shoes
- Building partnerships with their patients
- Countering negative stereotypes by seeking out positive representations
- Being more positive, as emotional regulation is key to quality care and looking at all sides of something
- Taking care of themselves, as if you don’t, you are more likely to exhibit unconscious bias
Some people think that medical professionals should completely overlook factors like age, weight, sex, race, and social class. However, it’s important to note that medical conditions are often unevenly distributed across groups. For example, people who are overweight are at higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more.
As such, if a patient is part of a group that’s at higher risk for a certain condition than another, the medical professional would be remiss to overlook this information. The issue is when the medical professional overlooks other factors, such as not considering that a Black person may have a health condition that is more commonly seen in white people.
Healthcare Focused On You
Life Health Medical Center provides patient-centered treatment. We’re passionate about working with each patient as an individual. Our functional medicine approach means that we really take our time to get to know you, understand what you’re going through, and uncover the root causes for your issues. We then create a personalized treatment program that is suitable for your needs.
Depending on the patient, there could be a single cause for your issues or there could be many. We work closely with you to understand your medical history and concerns in order to ensure that we can provide you with the best treatment possible. Contact us today to learn more about our functional medicine services.