July 16, 2015
2 min read

Majority of health care providers have preference toward sexual orientation of patients

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Many health care providers have implicit preferences that favor those who share the same sexual orientation that they do, according to recently published data.

“We found that moderate to strong implicit and explicit preferences for straight people over lesbian women, or in particular, gay men, are widespread among heterosexual providers. In contrast, lesbian and gay providers held implicit and explicit preferences for lesbian women and gay men over straight people, and bisexual providers held mixed preferences,” Janice A. Sabin, PhD, MSW, department of biomedical informatics and medical education, University of Washington, and colleagues wrote.

Janice A. Sabin

To assess the implicit and explicit attitudes of health care providers towards lesbian and gay people, researchers analyzed data from the sexuality portion of the Implicit Association Test of Project Implicit. Participants included 2,338 medical doctors, 5,379 nurses, 8,531 mental health providers and 2,735 other treatment providers.

Results demonstrated that overall, implicit preferences of heterosexual providers always favored heterosexual people, while both implicit and explicit preferences of lesbian and gay providers favored lesbian and gay people, compared with heterosexual people.

The one exception to this finding was among heterosexual female mental health providers. They were found to have explicit preference toward lesbian and gay men.

Heterosexual male nurses were found to hold a strong implicit preference for heterosexual women (Cohen d = 1.06; 95% CI, 1-1.13) and men (Cohen d = 1.38; 95% CI, 1.32-1.44).

Both heterosexual female nurses and male medical doctors were found to have strong implicit preferences toward heterosexual women and gay men.

Female medical doctors had strong implicit preferences for heterosexual men. A moderate preference was seen toward heterosexual women.

Overall, nurses were found to hold the strongest implicit preference for heterosexual people, whereas mental health providers were found to have the weakest implicit preference for heterosexual people.

The researchers noted the importance of further research to investigate the association between provider preference and clinical outcomes, and they call for more effective training in sexual minority health care.

“For healthcare organizations that aim to serve these populations, these data suggest an opportunity to examine methods likely to mitigate implicit biases, such as eliminating discretion from decision-making, use of clinical guidelines, awareness of personal bias as self-caution, organizational policies that promote objective decision-making, and inclusion of counter-stereotypical experiences in educational programs,” the researchers wrote. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: Healio.com/Family Medicine was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.