Why Black and Latino patients are less likely to seek healthcare

Some have issues with access, while others aren’t sure they’ll get quality care, according to a report by McKinsey & Company.

Black and Latino patients are more likely to avoid going to a doctor when they’re feeling sick and also worry about getting less care due to their race, according to a new report from McKinsey & Company.

The report, published May 4, examines the perceptions of Black and Latino patients and is designed to offer insights into how healthcare providers can meet their needs.

Black and Latino consumers cited a number of reasons they sought healthcare less often than white patients.

Affordability

About half of Latino and Black patients (48% and 46% respectively) said they didn’t get care because they didn’t think they could afford it, while 35% of white consumers pointed to the cost as the reason they didn’t seek care.

Black and Latino Americans are 1.7 times more likely to have medical debt of more than $1,000, the report notes. Some in those groups are less likely to have savings to help cover the costs of medication or treatment.

Accessibility

Transportation is a significant hurdle for Black and Latino patients.

Two out of five Black patients (40%) said they didn’t seek treatment because they lacked transportation, and 39% of Latino patients also cited transportation as an impediment. One in four white patients (25%) identified transportation as the reason they didn’t seek care.

In a recent interview with Chief Healthcare Executive, Anton Bizzell, CEO of the Bizzell Group, pointed to hassles with transportation as a key factor preventing members from minority groups getting to appointments for care, including COVID-19 vaccinations. “Even in this pandemic, folks are not able to get to their appointments because of transportation issues, or because they are working, or because they can’t get daycare,” Bizzell said.

Length of appointments

About half of Black and Latino patients (52% and 49%, respectively) said they didn’t pursue healthcare because they thought it would take too long, a concern expressed by 36% of white patients.

Black and Latino workers are more likely to hold jobs where they have limited time to go to medical appointments, the report suggests.

Concerns about treatment

Some Black and Latino patients said they perceived they receive lower quality care because of their race. The report found 12% of Black patients felt they received lower quality care because of their race, while 8% of Latino patients held that view. Conversely, 6% of white patients identified their race or ethnicity as the reason for lower quality care.

Among those citing concerns about their race affecting the level of care they received, respondents cited bias against their race or ethnicity and said clinicians made assumptions that affected their treatment. Others said providers “talked down” to them or didn’t understand their needs.

Possible solutions

The Mckinsey report outlined several potential remedies to provide more care for Black and Latino patients.

  1. More options for care: Providers can offer more locations in underserved neighborhoods, or develop more telehealth options to make it easier for patients to talk with clinicians. Providers may also need to offer more evening and weekend hours for those who can’t get out of work during the day.
  2. More diverse workforce: Hiring more doctors from underrepresented groups could help reassure patients their concerns are being treated seriously. The report also notes a lack of diversity in the physician workforce is a larger systemic problem.
  3. Expand network access: Payers should look at their network access to ensure Black and Latino patients can get the care they need.
  4. Survey patients: Providers should closely examine responses from patient surveys to understand where they are dissatisfied and devise ways to improve the patient experience.
  5. Improved training: Providers need to help educate staff on developing culturally relevant care, the report notes. And they need to institute training to reduce bias on staff.

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