Last updated: June 22, 2020
Many people are working to make systemic changes to get rid of racism and bias in health care. While that work is ongoing, this page provides some information about what you can do if you experience unequal treatment at the doctor’s office.
Getting the Care You Deserve: The Reality of Discrimination and Bias in Health Care
You have a right as a patient to receive good health care. You have a right to speak directly with your health care providers and ask questions about the care you are getting. You can say “no” to what the doctor wants you to do, including participating in research studies. If you speak a language other than English, health care facilities are required by law to provide free interpretation services by a trained interpreter.
There are many laws in place that make it illegal for health care providers to discriminate based on your age, disability, gender, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
If you feel that you are not getting good care for any reason, listen to your intuition.
For example, if your doctor does not listen to you, answer your questions, or take your health concerns seriously, you may not be getting good care. Another example is if your providers say something mean or judgmental about people with your background, culture, or body type.
If you feel comfortable, be direct and tell the doctor you don’t think you’re getting the care you deserve. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor directly, or if the doctor is angry or does not seem to care about your concerns, you can:
- Find a new doctor.
- Make a complaint. Contact the doctor’s office, hospital, your insurance company, and/or the Illinois Department of Public Health.
It is your health care provider’s job to provide you with good care.
What else can I do?
Here are some other practical tips on how to make sure you get the care you deserve:
- Research your doctor before your visit. Ask friends or family members for suggestions, and search for providers that speak your language.
- Research your health concerns before your visit.
- Ask your doctor questions. If possible, prepare questions before your visit.
- Connect with your doctor – make small talk and ask questions.
- Ask for help getting what you need. Many doctor’s offices and hospitals have social workers to help make sure patients get all of their needs met.
- If you feel comfortable sharing your health information, bring a family member or friend to your doctor’s appointment for support.
- Answer demographic questionnaires and patient satisfaction forms. These help show when unequal care is being provided and help people work toward solutions.
- Support efforts to increase access to health care and health equity. You can learn more about health care advocacy by visiting Protect Our Care Illinois.
White, A.A. Some Advice for Minorities and Women on the Receiving End of Health-care Disparities. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 1, 61–66 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-014-0011-9
White, A.A. Your Doctor May Be Biased: How to Make Sure You’Re Getting the Care You Deserve. 1 Mar. 2012, bottomlineinc.com/health/health-care-professionals/your-doctor-may-be-biased-how-to-make-sure-youre-getting-the-care-you-deserve.