As part of the industry’s continued reckoning with disparities in treatment, a team of researchers sought to explore patients’ experiences with racism and how those experiences colored patient/clinician communication. To do so, the researchers interviewed 25 Black patients being treated for serious illness at an urban academic medical center located in the state of Washington.

The study participants resided low on the socioeconomic ladder, with their income, wealth and education ranking below average. Six of the 25 patients died within a year of speaking with the researchers; another 12 patients declined to be interviewed, citing either their illnesses or a lack of interest.

While the small sample size suggests that we should be wary of drawing overarching conclusions, the results paint an unflattering portrait. Patients interviewed for the study believed they were treated differently — and experienced graver outcomes — due to the color of their skin. If one patient believes this to be the case, well, it’s one too many.

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