August 30, 2019
2 min read

Culturally aware communication skills training needed in dermatology

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Outside of skin of color clinics, the satisfaction of care by black patients would improve if dermatologists underwent residency training in skin of color, cultural competency and emphatic communication skills and if there were greater dermatology workforce diversity, according to researchers in JAMA Dermatology.

“Participants valued dermatologists who listened to them, normalized the patient’s experience, involved them in decision-making and educated them about their skin condition,” Kristina Gorbatenko-Roth, PhD, LP, of the department of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Stout, and colleagues wrote.

Researchers used a survey and focus groups to assess 19 adult black patients (18 women) treated by a dermatologist in and outside of a skin of color clinic (SOCC). Focus groups were held approximately 1 to 90 days after the patients’ general clinic visit. Two focus groups evaluated the satisfaction of care by a race-concordant dermatologist and two by a race-discordant dermatologist.

Participants were critical when dermatologists did not perform a complete examination or avoided physical contact during the exam. However, dermatologists who showed experience in the care of disorders of black skin and hair were valued.

While attending a SOCC, participants experienced increased comfort and confidence. They believed a race-concordant provider would be most likely to understand their personal experience with black skin and hair.

“Participants expressed a sense of enlightenment as to the existence of biological and treatment differences between white skin and hair and that of other races,” Gorbatenko-Roth and colleagues wrote.

Additionally, participants appreciated providers who were aware of medication costs and considered them when making treatment recommendations.

The participants said dermatologists can improve interacting with black patients with training on specific knowledge on black skin and hair, education on skills in interacting with black patients and including more black patients in dermatology research.

The participants rated more favorable scores for the two SOCC dermatologists in patient satisfaction, interaction style and cultural awareness.

In all participants, the interaction style of the dermatologist was rated as the most important factor. Another top priority was the specialized knowledge in caring for black skin and hair.

As for limitations of the study, these findings focused solely on patient perceptions and not objective measures of clinical outcomes. In addition, the findings need further validation through a larger, representative sample of black patients.

“Given the importance of dermatology provider interaction style on participants’ satisfaction with care, the emphasis on culturally aware communication skills training should be widened,” Gorbatenko-Roth and colleagues wrote. – by Abigail Sutton


Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.