Patient-reported racial/ethnic healthcare provider discrimination and medication intensification in the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE)

J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Oct;26(10):1138-44. doi: 10.1007/s11606-011-1729-2. Epub 2011 May 6.


Background: Racial/ethnic minority patients are more likely to report experiences with discrimination in the healthcare setting, potentially leading to reduced access to appropriate care; however, few studies evaluate reports of discrimination with objectively measured quality of care indicators.

Objective: To evaluate whether patient-reported racial/ethnic discrimination by healthcare providers was associated with evidence of poorer quality care measured by medication intensification.

Research design and participants: Baseline data from the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE), a random, race-stratified sample from the Kaiser Permanente Diabetes Registry from 2005-2006, including both survey and medical record data.

Main measures: Self-reported healthcare provider discrimination (from survey data) and medication intensification (from electronic prescription records) for poorly controlled diabetes patients (A1c ≥9.0%; systolic BP ≥140 mmHg or diastolic BP ≥90 mmHg; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ≥130 mg/dl).

Key results: Of 10,409 eligible patients, 21% had hyperglycemia, 14% had hyperlipidemia, and 32% had hypertension. Of those with hyperglycemia, 59% had their medications intensified, along with 40% with hyperlipidemia, 33% with hypertension, and 47% in poor control of any risk factor. In adjusted log-binomial GEE models, discrimination was not associated with medication intensification [RR = 0.96 (95% CI: 0.74, 1.24) for hyperglycemia, RR = 1.23 (95% CI: 0.93, 1.63) for hyperlipidemia, RR = 1.06 (95% CI: 0.69, 1.61) for hypertension, and RR = 1.08 (95% CI: 0.88, 1.33) for the composite cohort].

Conclusions: We found no evidence that patient-reported healthcare discrimination was associated with less medication intensification. While not associated with this technical aspect of care, discrimination could still be associated with other aspects of care (e.g., patient-centeredness, communication).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • California / ethnology
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Electronic Health Records / standards
  • Electronic Prescribing* / standards
  • Ethnicity / ethnology
  • Ethnicity / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Personnel* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / ethnology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Quality of Health Care / standards
  • Racial Groups / ethnology
  • Racial Groups / psychology