Health disparities have bewildered public health advocates for decades. It has long been known that health status and health outcomes often vary by education, ethnicity, race, gender and numerous other factors. Sidenote: when you control for education, the other variables lose much of their significance.
Despite variables that are beyond physicians’ control (e.g. see above list), doctors still catch much of the blame for health disparities. That is, at least according to numerous articles published in medical journals. John Goodman recently wrote a post discussing how physicians are being pushed into social activism to combat health disparities.
Wokeness is also invading health plans. A law recently passed in Colorado requires health plans to offer the “Colorado Option.” Plans sold on the state Obamacare marketplace must create culturally responsive provider networks. In case you’re wondering this involves health plans asking providers (that is doctors, physicals therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, office staff and so on) invasive personal questions. What does Colorado want your doctors to reveal about themselves? Their race, ethnicity, gender identification, preferred pronouns, sexual orientation, disability status and other personal questions. That’s not all. The same health plans are supposed to ask plan members similar invasive questions to better match plan members with likeminded providers.
This treasure-trove of personal information gathering is based on the idea that patients’ outcomes will improve when health care providers share patients’ cultural background, ethnicity, language or have similar life experiences. Presumably, this is either because the doctor tries harder, is more easily understood, the patients listens better or some other unknown factor. Yet did anyone think to ask doctors if he or she wants their personal information published on websites like Vitals, Health Grades, Angie’s List or WebMD? Or as my wife asked when I told her about this: When is your doctor going to have time to bond with you over similarities in a 10-to-15 minute office visit?