Objectives: This study explored whether racial differences in patient-physician relationships contribute to disparities in the quality of health care.
Methods: We analyzed data from The Commonwealth Fund's 2001 Health Care Quality Survey to determine whether racial differences in patients' satisfaction with health care and use of basic health services were explained by differences in quality of patient-physician interactions, physicians' cultural sensitivity, or patient-physician racial concordance.
Results: Both satisfaction with and use of health services were lower for Hispanics and Asians than for Blacks and Whites. Racial differences in the quality of patient-physician interactions helped explain the observed disparities in satisfaction, but not in the use of health services.
Conclusions: Barriers in the patient-physician relationship contribute to racial disparities in the experience of health care.