Physician race and treatment preferences for depression, anxiety, and medically unexplained symptoms.
OBJECTIVES: Studies have repeatedly shown racial and ethnic differences in mental health care. Prior research focused on relationships between patient preferences and ethnicity, with little attention given to the possible relationship between physicians' ethnicity and their treatment recommendations. DESIGN: A questionnaire was mailed to a national sample of US primary care physicians and psychiatrists. It included vignettes of patients presenting with depression, anxiety, and medically unexplained symptoms. Physicians were asked how likely they would be to advise medication, see the patient regularly for counseling, refer to a psychiatrist, or refer to a psychologist or licensed mental health counselor. RESULTS: The response rate was 896 of 1427 (63%) for primary care physicians and 312 of 487 (64%) for psychiatrists. Treatment preferences varied across diagnoses. Compared to whites (referent), black primary care physicians were less likely to use antidepressants (depression vignette), but more likely to see the patient for counseling (all vignettes), and to refer to a psychiatrist (depression vignette). Asian primary care physicians were more likely to see the patient for counseling (anxiety and medically unexplained symptoms vignettes) and to refer to a psychiatrist (depression and anxiety vignettes). Asian psychiatrists were more likely to recommend seeing the patient regularly for counseling (depression vignette). CONCLUSIONS: Overall, these findings suggest that physician race and ethnicity contributes to different patterns of treatment for basic mental health concerns.
Lawrence, RE; Rasinski, KA; Yoon, JD; Curlin, FA
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