Racism and events of racial violence have dominated the US news in 2020 almost as much as the novel coronavirus pandemic. The resultant civil unrest and demands for racial justice have spawned a global call for change. As a subset of a society that struggles with racism and other explicit biases, it is inescapable that some physicians and health-care employees will have the same explicit biases as the general population. Patients who receive care at academic medical centers interact with multiple individuals, some of whom may have explicit and implicit biases that influence patient care. In fact, multiple reports have documented that some physicians, health-care workers, and health professional students have negative biases based on race, ethnicity, obesity, religion, and sexual identity, among others. These biases can influence decision-making and aggravate health-care disparities and patient-physician mistrust. We review four actual cases from academic medical centers that illustrate how well-intended physicians and health-care workers can be influenced by bias and how this can put patients at risk. Strategies to mitigate bias are discussed and recommended. We introduce what we believe can be a powerful teaching tool: periodic “bias and racism rounds” in teaching hospitals, in which real patient interactions are reviewed critically to identify opportunities to reduce bias and racism and to attenuate the impact of bias and racism on patient outcomes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine