Language Used in Medical Record Can Affect Patient Care

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There was significantly less aggressive management of the patient's sickle-cell related pain when the stigmatizing language note was read.
There was significantly less aggressive management of the patient's sickle-cell related pain when the stigmatizing language note was read.

HealthDay News — Stigmatizing language used in medical records to describe patients can influence medical students and residents in terms of their attitudes towards the patient and their clinical decision-making, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Anna P. Goddu, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues surveyed 413 medical students and residents (54 percent response rate) using vignettes to assess whether stigmatizing language written in a patient medical record is associated with a subsequent physician-in-training's attitudes towards the patient and clinical decision-making.

The researchers found that exposure to the stigmatizing language note was associated with more negative attitudes towards the hypothetical 28-year-old patient (P < 0.001). Additionally, there was significantly less aggressive management of the patient's sickle-cell related pain when the stigmatizing language note was read (P = 0.003).

"This is an important and overlooked pathway by which bias can be propagated from one clinician to another," the authors write. "Attention to the language used in medical records may help to promote patient-centered care and to reduce health care disparities for stigmatized populations."

Abstract/Full Text

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