Perspectives of Orthopedic Surgeons on Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Care

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2017 Aug;4(4):758-762. doi: 10.1007/s40615-016-0279-z. Epub 2016 Aug 29.


Objectives: Racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare, including orthopedics, have been extensively documented. However, the level of knowledge among orthopedic surgeons regarding racial/ethnic disparities is unknown. The purpose of this study is to determine the views of orthopedic surgeons on (1) the extent of racial/ethnic disparities in orthopedic care, (2) patient and system factors that may contribute, and (3) the potential role of orthopedic surgeons in the reduction of disparities.

Methods: Three hundred five members of the American Orthopaedic Association completed a survey to assess their knowledge of racial/ethnic disparities and their perceptions about the underlying causes.

Results: Twelve percent of respondents believe that patients often receive different care based on race/ethnicity in healthcare in general, while 9 % believe that differences exist in orthopedic care in general, 3 % believe that differences exist within their hospitals/clinics, and 1 % reported differences in their own practices. Despite this, 68 % acknowledge that there is evidence of disparities in orthopedic care. Fifty-one percent believe that a lack of insurance significantly contributes to disparities. Thirty-five percent believe that diversification of the orthopedic workforce would be a "very effective" strategy in addressing disparities, while 25 % percent believe that research would be "very effective" and 24 % believe that surgeon education would be "very effective."

Conclusion: Awareness regarding racial/ethnic disparities in musculoskeletal care is low among orthopedic surgeons. Additionally, respondents were more likely to acknowledge disparities within the practices of others than their own. Increased diversity, research, and education may help improve knowledge of this problem.

Keywords: Orthopedic surgery; Racial disparities.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / ethnology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy
  • Orthopedic Surgeons / psychology*
  • Orthopedic Surgeons / statistics & numerical data
  • Societies, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States