Patient’s Experiences of Discrimination and Prejudice in Healthcare


The present research delineates the core directions and achievements of the research in the scope of discrimination and prejudice in healthcare. The major focus of the study is the patient’s experience and peculiarities of discrimination perception by patients, and its consequent impact on their health condition and efficiency of treatment. The works by Guilfoyle, Kelly, and Pierre-Hansen (2008); Haywood et al. (2014); Martin (2015); Parker (2012); and Shavers et al. (2012) are included in the literature review.

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The sources selected for the review are credible, reliable, and constructive. Each source contributes to the holistic and objective exploration of the issue in question. The incidents of discrimination are regarded as enacted prejudice or stigma based on particular stereotypes that have been formed historically.

The studies focus not only on the actual experience of patients related to the cases of discrimination but also on the historical record of their formation, premises of stigmatization as well as biases of performance of care providers connected with the racial or ethnic difference in patients. The studies reveal a considerable level of impact of discrimination on overall health condition and efficiency of medical treatment in patients that belong to a particular ethnic or racial minority.

Keywords: discrimination, prejudice, stigma, ethnicity, racial minority

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The healthcare system aims to provide proper, equal, and holistic diagnostics, treatment, and post-treatment courses for all patients regardless of their ethnic, sexual, religious, socially relevant, and other aspects. Nonetheless, the impact of prejudice and discrimination in the health care process is considerable. Discrimination is regarded as a particular form of enacted prejudice provoked by negative stereotypes, or an actualized stigma connected with particular marks of disgrace imposed on a specific stratum of people by the majority or peculiar representatives of society.

The present research focuses on the actual cases of patients’ experience related to discrimination and prejudice enforced under certain circumstances in the scope of health care. The phenomenon of discrimination is a serious offense of human and civil rights. Moreover, it is regarded as a detrimental factor in the healthcare system as far as it causes destructive outcomes in the course of diagnostics and treatment. Patients’ experience of prejudice and discrimination in the healthcare system is expected to be considerable and primarily related to ethnic, sexual, and religious aspects.

Literature Review

Guilfoyle, Kelly, and Pierre-Hansen (2008) conducted a consistent study targeted to identify the role of the representatives of healthcare providers in the formation and essential influence on the course of diagnostics and treatment of disparities. These disparities are based on prejudices and usually affect the curing process negatively. The scholars underline the following tendency: “Prejudice is both an attitude and a cognitive process, the identifiable and measurable outcome of which is the practice of discrimination” (Guilfoyle et al., 2008).

The research relies on the recent investigation of the Institute of Medicine. The major focus of the study is on ethnic and racial disparities that are considered to provide a detrimental impact on the ramifications of healthcare treatment. Apart from the in-depth insight into the nature and peculiarities of the contemporary prejudices and consequent discrimination cases, the researchers also provide comparative research; namely, they contrast the potential background and terms of discrimination in the United States and Canada.

Such an approach extends the overall scale of the study and contributes to the level of reliability and validity of the source. The scholars posit that “minorities in the United States receive lower-quality health services and are less likely to receive medical procedures than white Americans are” (Guilfoyle et al., 2008). In addition, the Canadian healthcare system also reveals a considerable level of disparities that prevail in terms of immigrant status and the issue of ethnicity. It is also important that the authors of the research discuss the issue in question from the socioeconomic status perspective as far as it often plays a defining role in the elimination or increase of disparities in the healthcare sector.

Finally, the scholars examine and analyze the attitudes that prevail among healthcare providers, and develop a range of constructive recommendations, such as enhancement of an atmosphere where particular efforts are made to ensure proper comprehension and empathy when dealing with prejudices (Guilfoyle et al., 2008). Hence, the given study is a valuable source that will contribute to the secondary data acquirement of the present research.

Furthermore, Guilfoyle et al. (2008) identify not only the core drawbacks and challenges of the disparities imposed by care providers caring for patients but also suggest particular directions for improvement of negative ramifications of discrimination based on the ethnic and racial status of patients. The comparison tendencies and statistics in the two countries are a substantial background for further research.

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Haywood et al. (2014) provide a crucial contribution to the scope of concern as far as the study focuses on the destructive effect of perceived discrimination based on primary research. The factual data relies not only on general statistics but also on the experience of participants of the study. The target group of the research included patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). The scholars explored the level of pain augmentation aligned with perceived discrimination from care providers. The narrow scope of the research is effective as far as it reveals accurate examples of prejudices’ impact on the disease’s progress and side effects provoked by the attitude of the medical personnel.

Another significant aspect of the currently reviewed study is that the inclusion criterion for the incidents of discrimination was attributed not only to racial-based discrimination but also to prejudices related to the fact that patients had SCD. The number of patients is 291. Hence, the quantity of participants is relevant to such a scale of research and confirms the credibility of its conclusions. The results of the given study revealed that: “Respondents reported a greater burden of race-based discrimination from health care providers than has been previously reported by African Americans, and they reported a greater amount of disease-based vs. race-based discrimination” (Haywood et al., 2014, p. 934).

Hence, there is a vivid background for further research and a more profound inspection of the relatedness of care providers’ attitudes to the destructive effects of the treatment course. It is also relevant to take into consideration the dependent and independent factors that were associated with racial discrimination. Such an approach contributed to the broad vision of the issue in question and the acquirement of a more objective picture. Along with such, the study by Haywood et al. (2014) provides up-to-date empirical data based on consistent primary research. Hence, it will be a proper background for assumptions and formation of research questions for further study. Moreover, this study provides significant outcomes of patients’ experience that is a crucial aspect of future investigation.

The overall scope of the study requires a detailed approach in order to identify the core challenges and drawbacks of the treatment course, which patients face under particular circumstances related to their ethnicity or other peculiar characteristic features. Martin (2015) focuses on the topical and challenging issue in the given context, namely, discrimination of Muslims in the healthcare sphere. Since the Muslim community is among the most rapidly growing and influential ones within the U.S. society, the incidents of discrimination may be frequent and detrimental. The scholar aims not only to explore the degree of discriminative performance among care providers but also to identify the most common causes and forms of discrimination.

It is also essential for the given study that Martin (2015) investigates the healthcare options the Muslim community prefers and to reveal the degree of actual efficiency of the novice instruments and methods targeted to measure and evaluate anti-discrimination interventions. Moreover, the scholar presents a significant theoretical background that enriches overall scope of preliminary research, namely, Ray’s model that puts an “emphasis on the relatedness of human-environment connection, particularly with respect to the socio-cultural and socio-political context within which Muslim Americans dwell since 9/11” (Martin, 2015).

Such a theoretical framework demonstrates a constructive and optimal approach to the study of discrimination in any sector, especially in the healthcare one. It is crucial as far as it contributes to the comprehension of underlying causes and stereotypes connected with prejudices. Every study within the scope of concern should be preceded by such explorations to guarantee objectivity and a profound understanding of the core factors that should be addressed for issue elimination.

Furthermore, the article by Martin (2015) is important for future study since it provides a variety of related factors to the discrimination phenomenon, its peculiarities, and its impact on the healthcare providers as well as its quality. These different aspects broaden the scale of research and will be instrumental in the formation of consequent study. The efficient outcomes of this research are expected to be useful for practical performance and improvement of health care delivery.

The research conducted by Parker (2012) contributes to the scope of concern due to consistent and efficient investigation that is complemented by the introduction of the notion of stigma within the given context. The scholar emphasizes the relation that exists between the notions of stigma and prejudice. To be more precise, they were primarily conceptualized as negatively framed attitudes based on the particular values of specific groups, namely, ethnic and racial minorities as well as people with mental diseases and individuals with HIV (Parker, 2012). The given concept is defining for further study since it identifies the potential ways of discrimination that is regarded as “a form of enacted stigma or enacted prejudice” (Parker, 2012, p. 165).

The scholar provides sufficient historical background of prejudice and stigmatization development, the tradition of research in the given scope, and vivid examples of these notions. Along with such, the scientist explores the issues of health and human rights as well as the phenomenon of social justice as the core aspects that oppose discrimination of any kind or any background. These notions are positioned as a constructive potential response to the notorious tendency of stigmatization of minorities or specific groups of patients (Parker, 2012).

The author of the research highlights that there is a considerable space for more profound and detailed investigation of the links between discrimination, stigma, prejudice and health care process, especially “on the conceptual and political linkages” (Parker, 2012, p. 168). Nonetheless, the ultimately decisive conclusion of the given study is the following: recent studies on the issue of discrimination related to stigmatization and prejudices as well as their connection with healthcare system confirm that discriminative aspects are “at the forefront of exploring the nature of these interrelationships and building bridges between social theory and public health practice” (Parker, 2012, p. 168).

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The given study contributes to future research by means of in-depth insight into the formation and relation of the stigma and prejudice phenomena. Moreover, it narrows the focus to socially relevant and political dimensions, and in such a way, the issue of discrimination in the healthcare sector is positioned as a topical one on a global scale.

The ultimate purpose of the research conducted by Shavers et al. (2012) was “to examine current literature on the effects of interpersonal and institutional racism and discrimination occurring within health care settings on the health care received by racial/ethnic minority patients” (p. 953). It is important that credible and reliable sources were used for the given study. Such valid databases as Scopus, PubMed, and PsychNet were employed, and the variety of research entries were used in order to provide maximal diversity and objectivity of the investigation.

The outcomes of research revealed that no exploration was conducted on temporal trends and in terms of discrimination, and there is also an apparent drawback in studies about racial and ethnic discrimination, whereas the majority of the reviewed sources focus on patient perception of actual discrimination cases and vivid biases of healthcare providers (Shavers et al., 2012).

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This study is vital as far as it outlines the core achievements, drawbacks and challenges in the scope of concern, and recommends constructive adjustments in order to provide sustainable and effective intervention in the scope of ethnic and racial discrimination, namely, “better instrumentation, innovative methodology, and strategies” (Shavers et al., 2012, p. 953). Future study is expected to incorporate the acquired knowledge for both designs of the research model and provision of relevant and reliable research background.


The course of review and analysis of the credible, reliable, and valid sources confirms that patients’ experience of prejudice and discrimination in the healthcare system is at a high level. Moreover, the given experience is primarily related to ethnic and religious prejudices and stigmatization. The recommendations and conclusions of each source reviewed is a valuable contribution to the secondary research as a background for the whole study. Furthermore, the given sources are instrumental in the establishment of plausible research questions and identification of key drawbacks and challenges for a more thorough focus during the next investigation. The future study aims to broaden the scope of the research base on the acquired data and further primary exploration.

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