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Empathy In Action: Using Patient Stories To Fight Implicit Bias In Healthcare

by | Apr 26, 2023 | Blog, Industry News

Implicit bias is the unconscious association that we make between people and ideas. It could be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other factor we are unaware of when making a decision. Implicit bias can affect everything in healthcare, from who you treat to what medications you prescribe. This article will examine how implicit bias influences medical treatment decisions and how you can use patient stories to fight implicit bias in your community’s healthcare system.


What’s in The Article?

  • Implicit Bias
  • Combating Implicit Bias In Healthcare
  • The Role Of Patient Stories In Healthcare
  • Using Patient Stories To Fight Implicit Bias
  • Final Thoughts


Implicit Bias

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes we hold about certain groups, whether we know them or not. It is unconscious bias caused by stereotypes and other false beliefs learned from our experiences and social interactions. Anyone, regardless of race or gender, can have implicit bias. In addition, these biases are learned from our environment and frequently influence our actions and decisions without our awareness. This can have an impact on everything from hiring practices to medical care.

It can be difficult to identify implicit bias because it feels natural to us as humans. It’s part of our nature as social beings, with our brains attempting to make sense of the world around us by categorizing people into groups based on similarities. However, they become problematic when these categorizations become rigidly held beliefs about what distinguishes one person from another. 


Combating Implicit Bias In Healthcare

In healthcare, combating implicit bias ensures that all patients receive equitable, high-quality care. Implicit biases can influence treatment and decision-making, resulting in disparities in healthcare outcomes. Here are some methods for reducing implicit bias in healthcare:

  • Raise awareness: Inform healthcare providers about implicit biases and how they can negatively impact patient care. For instance, you can provide resources, such as articles, videos, and workshops, to assist them in understanding the concept and recognizing their own biases.
  • Promote cultural competence: Implement training programs to assist healthcare providers in developing cultural competence, which includes understanding and respecting the values, beliefs, and practices of diverse patient populations.
  • Encourage empathy and active listening: Emphasize the importance of empathetic communication and active listening to healthcare providers. Encourage them to be present, attentive, and open-minded during patient interactions to combat implicit bias.
  • Standardize clinical decision-making: Implement evidence-based protocols and decision support tools to help reduce the influence of implicit biases on clinical decision-making. These tools can provide objective guidance and help patients receive more consistent, equitable care.
  • Diversify the healthcare workforce: Promote diversity among healthcare providers by recruiting and retaining professionals from diverse backgrounds. A diverse workforce can help provide culturally competent care while reducing implicit bias.
  • Implement bias-reducing strategies: Introduce bias-reducing interventions, such as perspective-taking exercises, mindfulness practices, and stereotype replacement techniques, to assist providers in recognizing and mitigating their biases.
  • Monitor and evaluate progress: Assess the effectiveness of your efforts to combat implicit bias regularly. Collect feedback from patients and providers, monitor patient outcomes, and track changes in attitudes and behaviors to identify areas for improvement.
  • Engage leadership: Obtain support from healthcare organization leaders to ensure that combating implicit bias is a priority. This can aid in allocating resources, implementing policies, and promoting an equitable and inclusive culture throughout the organization.


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The Role Of Patient Stories In Healthcare

Patient stories assist healthcare providers in avoiding stereotypes or subconscious biases that lead to assumptions about patients and their needs. Also, they can significantly impact how people perceive and treat patients suffering from mental illnesses.

Patient stories are effective tools in healthcare because they enable providers to see the world through the eyes of their patients, which can assist them in avoiding implicit bias in their practice. Using patient stories to fight implicit bias in healthcare raises awareness and fosters empathy among healthcare providers. Moreover, these narratives can help to break down stereotypes and challenge unconscious biases by humanizing the experiences of diverse patients.


Using Patient Stories To Fight Implicit Bias

Here are some steps to incorporate patient stories into your healthcare practice:

  • Collect diverse patient stories: Gather patient stories from a diverse range of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, genders, ages, and health conditions. Make certain that these stories reflect the diverse population you serve.
  • Protect patient privacy and confidentiality: Before sharing patient stories, obtain permission from the patients involved and anonymize the information to protect their privacy.
  • Integrate patient stories into training: Include patient stories in staff training programs to help healthcare providers develop empathy and understanding of diverse patient experiences. Use these stories to demonstrate how implicit bias affects patient care and outcomes.
  • Foster open dialogue: Encourage healthcare providers to discuss patient stories, share their experiences, and reflect on their biases. Make a safe space for these conversations where participants can express themselves without fear of judgment or retaliation.
  • Use stories as a teaching tool: Incorporate patient stories into case studies or problem-based learning exercises to help healthcare providers think critically about how implicit biases may affect clinical decision-making and patient interactions.
  • Evaluate the impact: Another is to assess the effectiveness of regularly using patient stories to fight implicit bias. Collect feedback from healthcare providers, monitor changes in staff attitudes and behaviors, and track improvements in patient outcomes.
  • Share success stories: Showcase how patient stories have influenced healthcare providers and resulted in better patient care. This can encourage others to engage with the stories and consider their biases.
  • Continue to evolve: Regularly update and expand the patient story collection to ensure it remains relevant. This will help maintain healthcare providers’ interest and engagement and contribute to ongoing efforts to reduce implicit bias.


Final Thoughts

As a healthcare provider, you want to ensure your patients receive the best care possible. To do so, you must first understand their specific needs and experiences. Patient stories are an excellent way to learn about these topics while avoiding assumptions based on stereotypes or subconscious biases.

Implicit bias is a difficult issue to address, but it is also one of the most important issues we, as a society, can address. We can help people overcome biases and make better personal and professional decisions by exposing them to different perspectives and stories.

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