Maybe they had a bad day: how LGBTQ and BIPOC patients react to bias in healthcare and struggle to speak out

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2022 Nov 14;29(12):2075-2082. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocac142.


Objective: People who experience marginalization, including Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus (ie, all other marginalized genders and sexual orientations) people (LGBTQ+) experience discrimination during healthcare interactions, which negatively impacts patient-provider communication and care. Yet, scarce research examines the lived experience of unfair treatment among patients from marginalized groups to guide patient-centered tools that improve healthcare equity.

Materials and methods: We interviewed 25 BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ people about their experiences of unfair treatment and discrimination when visiting healthcare providers. Through thematic analysis, we describe participants' immediate reactions and longer-term consequences of those experiences.

Results: We identified 4 ways that participants reacted to discrimination in the moment: Fighting, Fleeing, Excusing, and Working Around Bias. Long-term consequences reflect 6 ways they coped: Delaying or Avoiding Care, Changing Healthcare Providers, Self-prescribing, Covering Behaviors, Experiencing Health Complications, and Mistrusting Healthcare Institutions.

Discussion: By describing how patients react to experiences of unfair treatment and discrimination, our findings enhance the understanding of health disparities as patients cope and struggle to speak out.To combat these problems, we identify 3 future directions for informatics interventions that improve provider behavior, support patient advocacy, and address power dynamics in healthcare.

Conclusions: BIPOC and LGBTQ+ patients' perspectives on navigating unfair treatment and discrimination in healthcare offers critical insight into their experiences and long-term consequences of those experiences. Understanding the circumstances and consequences of unfair treatment, discrimination, and the impact of bias through this patient-centered lens is crucial to inform informatics technologies that promote health equity.

Keywords: bias; implicit; interview; patient harm; perceived discrimination; sexism; sexual and gender minorities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Promotion
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*