Patient-Physician Racial Concordance Associated with Improved Healthcare Use and Lower Healthcare Expenditures in Minority Populations

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2021 Jan 5. doi: 10.1007/s40615-020-00930-4. Online ahead of print.


Background: Racial concordance between patients and clinician has been linked to improved satisfaction and patient outcomes.

Objectives: (1) To examine the likelihood of clinician-patient racial concordance in non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, Asian, and Hispanic patients and (2) to evaluate the impact of patient-clinician race concordance on healthcare use and expenditures within each racial ethnic group.

Methods: We analyzed data from the 2010-2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). We used bivariate and multivariate models to assess the association between patient-clinician race concordance and emergency department (ED) use, hospitalizations, and total healthcare expenses, controlling for patient socio-demographic factors, insurance coverage, health status, and survey year fixed effects.

Results: Of the 50,626 adults in the analysis sample, 32,350 had racial concordance with their clinician. Among Asian and Hispanic patients, low income, less education, and non-private insurance were associated with an increased likelihood of patient-clinician racial concordance. Emergency department use was lower among Whites and Hispanics with concordant clinicians compared to those without a discordant clinician (15.6% vs. 17.3%, p = 0.02 and 12.9% vs. 16.2%, p = 0.01 respectively). Total healthcare expenditures were lower among Black, Asian, and Hispanic patients with race-concordant clinicians than those with discordant clinicians (14%, 34%, and 20%, p < 0.001 respectively).

Conclusions: These results add to the body of evidence supporting the hypothesis that racial concordance contributes to a more effective therapeutic relationship and improved healthcare. These results emphasize the need for medical education surrounding cultural humility and the importance of diversifying the healthcare workforce.

Keywords: Communication; Cultural humility; Healthcare delivery; Healthcare utilization; Medical education; Minorities; Patient-clinician race concordance.