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Patient-clinician race match as a context for symptom attribution and diagnosis: Evidence from test-retest interviews in a hospital setting

Steven J. Trierweiler, PhD, Program for Research on Black Americans, Research Center for Group Dynamics, University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, (734) 764-9397, stevtri@umich.edu

Literature suggests that patient-clinician race match affects mental health treatment for African American patients. However, empirical evidence for direct effects on clinical process and outcome is rare. We have shown that negative symptoms were more likely to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia for African American psychiatric inpatients than they were for Whites. Also, non-African American clinicians made the negative symptoms-schizophrenia diagnosis link more strongly than did African American clinicians, thus suggesting a tendency for a flat or affectively muted presentation on the part of patients (White or Black) to more frequently be interpreted as psychosis when clinicians were non-black. Were there race matching effects? As part of an ongoing detailed examination of clinical judgment issues in the diagnosis of African American inpatients, the present study examines how clinician-patient race match affects symptom attributions and diagnostic decisions in a test-retest diagnostic design. Analyses of clinicians free- response descriptions of their diagnostic decisions suggest that, although race match effects were not dramatic, they led to important differences in clinician decisions in some cases. Work is needed to better understand situations where clinician-patient race mismatch may have deleterious impact on mental health treatment.

Learning Objectives: Session attendees will be able to

Keywords: Depression,

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Panel: Environmental Contributions to Mental Disorder for African Americans

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA