Background: Racial disparities in hypertension control contribute to higher rates of cardiovascular mortality among blacks. Patient-physician communication quality is associated with better health outcomes, including blood pressure (BP) control. Both race/ethnicity and BP control may adversely affect communication.
Objective: To determine whether being black and having poor BP control interact to adversely affect patient-physician communication more than either condition alone, a situation referred to as "double jeopardy."
Design, settings, and patients: Cross-sectional study of enrollment data from a randomized controlled trial of interventions to enhance patient adherence to therapy for hypertension. Participants included 226 hypertensive patients and 39 physicians from 15 primary care practices in Baltimore, MD.
Measurements: Communication behaviors and visit length from coding of audiotapes.
Results: After controlling for patient and physician characteristics, blacks with uncontrolled BP have shorter visits (B = -3.9 min, p < 0.01) with less biomedical (B = -24.0, p = 0.05), psychosocial (B = -19.4, p < 0.01), and rapport-building (B = -19.5, p = 0.01) statements than whites with controlled BP. Of all communication outcomes, blacks with uncontrolled BP are only in "double jeopardy" for a patient positive affect-coders give them lower ratings than all other patients. Blacks with controlled BP also experience shorter visits and less communication with physicians than whites with controlled BP. There are no significant communication differences between the visits of whites with uncontrolled versus controlled BP.
Conclusions: This study reveals that patient race is associated with the quality of patient-physician communication to a greater extent than BP control. Interventions that improve patient-physician communication should be tested as a strategy to reduce racial disparities in hypertension care and outcomes.