Cultural Competency: Same doctors, different outcomes

July 4, 2008

The disparity in medical outcomes between black and white patients is largely because minorities have poorer access to high-quality care, according to conventional wisdom. How, then, to explain a new study that found such disparities between white and minority patients who went to the same physicians?

The disparity in medical outcomes between black and white patients is largely because minorities have poorer access to high-quality care, according to conventional wisdom. How, then, to explain a new study that found such disparities between white and minority patients who went to the same physicians?

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, focused on patients with diabetes. In one key measure of outcomes-HbA1c-71 percent of whites but only 63 percent of blacks were at the desired level.

The problem isn't that the doctors are treating blacks and whites differently, the lead author told The New York Times. It's that they're using a "one-size-fits-all approach" when they should be tailoring care to patients' cultural and individual differences.