Last updated: June 24, 2019

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This page provides some information about how to deal with unequal treatment at the doctor’s office.

Getting the Care You Deserve: The Reality of Discrimination and Bias in Health Care

Despite progress, racism, discrimination, bias, and stereotyping are still part of daily life in the United States, including in health care. When you visit the doctor, it is important to know your rights so you can get the care you deserve.

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 legal protections that make discrimination and bias illegal based on age, disability, gender, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. 

If you feel that you are not getting good, equitable care for any reason, listen to your intuition. 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:

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.

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3.