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Managing Bias In Healthcare

This article was written more for family medicine physicians, but all of us can benefit from self-assessment of potential biases that might affect our judgment. It was also written with the potential bias towards the obese patient in mind, but the article could have been written with any “fill in the blank” bias as the topic.

The article points out that bias among physicians tends to “be implicit rather than explicit because of social pressure for healthcare providers to show tolerance and cultural sensitivity.”

So how do we guard against implicit bias?

Some evidence suggests that motivated individuals who are made aware of their personal implicit biases can mentally alter them.

One way of developing such awareness is to take the Implicit Association Test [IAT], a brief, online, interactive exercise that measures implicit bias by linking pictures and words (associated with such features as race, body size, or disability) to positive or negative characteristics.

Reflecting on one’s own IAT results either individually or in a group can enhance understanding and acceptance of implicit bias and lead to behavior changes that actively address potential negative consequences of this bias.

In full disclosure, my results of the Implicit Association Test in regards to obesity:

Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between Thin People and Fat People.

Do you have any tips for guarding against bias, implicit or explicit?

REFERENCE: Lie, Desiree, MD, MSEd. “Approaches for Managing Bias Against the Obese Patient.” Medscape, April 16, 2010.

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*


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