Unconscious Physician Bias Causes Low Quality Care for LGBT & Disabled Patients

Author: American Osteopathic Association
Published: Thursday 24th December 2015
Summary: Physicians' unconscious attitudes toward special patient populations like disabled and LGBT patients may be partially responsible for poorer overall health.


Physicians' reluctance to discuss disabilities, sex, work and independence with disabled patients, who comprise nearly 20 percent of Americans, deprives patients of high quality care by leaving important health concerns unaddressed, said Joshua Coren, DO. Primary care providers frequently fail to discuss contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional health and basic wellness concerns like diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol use with patients who have disabilities, Dr. Coren added.

"The statistics make a very compelling case that as osteopathic physicians, we need to overcome our subconscious perceptions and make sure we see every patient as a whole person, particularly when they are living with a disability. Disabled individuals have sex, use alcohol and drugs, over eat and under exercise like other populations, yet their doctors tend to avoid those topics," Dr. Coren said.

While more commonly recognized, attitudes toward LGBT patients require physicians to examine their own behavior for unintentional biases. The LGBT population faces different challenges, primarily cultural attitudes that favor heterosexuals. Multiple studies have shown that homophobia and heterosexism occur in the practice of medicine and give rise to substandard assessment and treatment of medical problems in LGBT patients.

LGBT Affirmative Physician Attitudes

Failure to address unconscious biases decreases the physician's ability to prevent disease, which is a basic tenet of osteopathic medicine. Prevention is also a primary concern for LGBT populations, which disproportionately experience social and behavioral risk factors, including higher rates of smoking, alcohol use and depression. Physicians, particularly those with strong religious convictions, are encouraged to examine their belief systems closely and monitor their own behavior for negative reactions to LGBT patients.

Dr. Coren will present his recommendations at OMED 15ΒΈ the annual medical conference for osteopathic physicians (DOs), to be held October 17-21 in Orlando.

OMED 15 is a five-day event offering clinical and research updates in 15 specialties, with an emphasis on osteopathic principles and practices.

The osteopathic philosophy of medicine takes a whole person approach to prevention, diagnosis and treatment, giving its practitioners a distinct model for clinical problem solving and patient education. OMED welcomes all health care professionals-- including MDs, nurse practitioners and physician assistants--interested in osteopathic medicine's collaborative approach to increasingly complex medical issues.


Similar Topics


From our Sexual Health section - Full List (30 Items)

Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.


Experiences of Food Insecurity Among Californian LGBTQ


U.S. DOJ Files Statement of Interest Defending Constitutionality of Idaho's Fairness in Women's Sports Act


US Supreme Court Decision Protects 8.1M LGBT Workers From Employment Discrimination


LGB People Who Have Undergone Conversion Therapy Almost Twice As Likely to Attempt Suicide


After Marriage Equality Ruling LGBT Emotional Well-being Improved


Revolutionary Technology Customizes Film to Viewer's Race, Gender, Sexual Preference, and More


Same-sex Weddings Boost U.S. State Economies by $3.8 Billion Since Marriage Equality Ruling


Over 200,000 LGBT adults in California at High Risk for COVID-19



Tsara Shelton
"Storytellers are powerful and we are all storytellers," suggests Tsara Shelton, author of the book Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up..


LGBT Awareness & Events
List of important LGBT awareness dates and coming sexual diversity events.


Transgender Reporting Guide - English
Guide for those writing on transgender and LGBT community - Spanish Version.
Sexuality Definitions
List of definitions and glossary of sexual terms, abbreviations and their meanings.