Can bias be reversed?

Is mandatory anti-bias training an effective way to change unconscious discrimination? Following the very public trajectory that Starbucks took following an incident of racial profiling and corporate response, other industries, including health care, are examining whether they are effectively addressing racial bias, what their organizational responsibility is, and what is the measured effect of mandatory anti-bias training. 

According to data presented at the 2018 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, anti-bias training does have a measurable effect on patient care in regards to mitigating implicit bias and creating an inclusive and safe environment for all patients. The data was gathered from a study of emergency medicine residents who took an online Implicit Association Test (IAT) on race followed by a facilitated discussion, to determine whether an implicit bias curriculum leads to greater self-awareness by the participants.

Amy Zeiden, a resident in emergency medicine at Penn, was the study lead author. “As health care providers, we are a critical part of our patients’ lives, and it’s imperative that we’re aware of how they’re being treated and how they’re feeling. Health care doesn’t work if patients don’t feel comfortable and safe.”

The need to train medical staff to better understand patients has been a feature of a larger research effort by Penn’s House Staff & Advanced Practice Provider Quality Council. Understanding that racial disparity is a problem, and needs to be addressed, is part of residents’ training. Residents work with community health workers, doing rounds to understand where patients come from, and understand how implicit bias may affect their health care. 

Read more at Penn Medicine News.