Practice Management

Hospitalists deal with patient discrimination


Multiple hospitalists at the workshop said that if a transfer of a patient is going to take place – if the patient requests a “white” doctor and there is not one available where the patient is admitted – they are unsure whether it is their responsibility to make the necessary phone calls. Some hospitalists say that if that job does fall to them, it interrupts work flow.

Susan Hakes, MHA, director of hospital administration at the Guthrie Clinic in Ithaca, N.Y., said that when a patient recently asked for a “white” doctor and there was not one available at the time of the request, the patient changed her mind when costs were considered.

“I was willing to have this patient transferred to another one of our hospitals that did have a white doctor, but it would have been at her expense since insurance wouldn’t cover the ambulance ride,” Ms. Hakes said. “She had second thoughts after learning that.”

Ms. Hakes said that the broader community in her region – which is predominantly white – needs to adapt to a changing health care scene.

“We’re recruiting international nurses now, due to the nursing shortage,” she said. “It will serve our community well to be receptive and welcome this additional resource.”

Kunal P. Bhagat, MD, chief of hospital medicine at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., said that medical centers should set parameters for action when a patient discriminates, but that clinicians should not expect to fundamentally change a patient’s mindset.

Dr. Kunal P. Bhagat, division of hospital medicine, Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.

Dr. Kunal P. Bhagat

“I think it is important to set limits,” Dr. Bhagat said. “It’s like with your kids. Your children may behave in certain ways, at certain times, that you don’t like. You can tell them, ‘You know, you may not like behaving the way I want you to behave, but the way you’re behaving now is not acceptable.’ If our goal is to try to completely change their world-view at that moment, I think we’re going to be set up for failure. That’s more of a long-term issue for society to address.”


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