Dermatologists spent less time with Asian patients with psoriasis than patients of other races and ethnicities in a cross-sectional study using data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) from 2010 to 2016.
Yet the reasons for the difference are unclear and in need of further research, said the investigators and dermatologists who were asked to comment on the research.
The study covered over 4 million visits for psoriasis and found that the mean duration of visits for Asian patients was 9.2 minutes, compared with 15.7 minutes for Hispanic or Latino patients, 20.7 minutes for non-Hispanic Black patients, and 15.4 minutes for non-Hispanic White patients.
The mean duration of visits with Asian patients was 39.9% shorter, compared with visits with White patients (beta coefficient, –5,747; 95% confidence interval, –11.026 to –0.469; P = .03), and 40.6% shorter, compared with visits with non-Asian patients combined (beta coefficient, –5.908; 95% CI, –11.147 to –0.669, P = .03), April W. Armstrong, MD, MPH, professor of dermatology and director of the psoriasis program at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and Kevin K. Wu, MD, a dermatology resident at USC, said in a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology.
“The etiology of these differences is unclear,” they wrote. “It is possible that factors such as unconscious bias, cultural differences in communication, or residual confounding may be responsible for the observed findings.”
Their findings came from multivariable linear regression analyses that adjusted for age, sex, type of visit (new or follow-up), visit complexity based on the number of reasons for the visit, insurance status (such as private insurance or Medicaid), psoriasis severity on the basis of systemic psoriasis treatment or phototherapy, and complex topical regimens (three or more topical agents).
Dr Deborah Scott
Commenting on the results, Deborah A. Scott, MD, codirector of the skin of color dermatology program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, said in an interview that visit length “is a reasonable parameter to look at among many others” when investigating potential disparities in care.
“They’re equating [shorter visit times] with lack of time spent counseling patients,” said Scott, who was not involved in the research. But there are “many variables” that can affect visit time, such as language differences, time spent with interpreters, and differences in patient educational levels.
Clarissa Yang, MD, dermatologist-in-chief at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, agreed. “We’re worried about there being a quality of care issue. However, there could also be differences culturally in how [the patients] interact with their physicians — their styles and the questions they ask,” she said in an interview. “The study is a good first step to noting that there may be a disparity,” and there is a need to break down the differences “into more granularity.”
Previous research, the authors wrote, has found that Asian patients were less likely to receive counseling from physicians, compared with White patients. And “paradoxically,” they noted, Asian individuals tend to present with more severe psoriasis than patients of other races and ethnicities.
Scott said the tendency to present with more severe psoriasis has been documented in patients with skin of color broadly — likely because of delays in recognition and treatment.
Race and ethnicity in the study were self-reported by patients, and missing data were imputed by NAMCS researchers using a sequential regression method. Patients who did not report race and ethnicity may have different characteristics affecting visit duration than those who did report the information, Armstrong and Wu said in describing their study’s limitations.
Other Differences Found
In addition to visit length, they found significant differences in mean age and in the use of complex topical regimens. The mean ages of Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and non-Hispanic Black patients were 37.2, 44.7, and 33.3 years, respectively. Complex topical regimens were prescribed to 11.8% of Asian patients, compared with 1.5% of Black and 1.1% of White patients.
For practicing dermatologists, knowing for now that Asian patients have shorter visits “may bring to light some consciousness to how we practice,” Yang noted. “We may counsel differently, we may spend differing amounts of time — for reasons still unknown. But being generally aware can help us to shift any unconscious bias that may be there.”
Dermatologists, Armstrong and Wu wrote, “need to allow sufficient time to develop strong physician-patient communication regardless of patient background.”
The NAMCS — administered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics — collects data on a sample of visits provided by non–federally employed office-based physicians.
Armstrong disclosed receiving personal fees from AbbVie and Regeneron for research funding and serving as a scientific adviser and speaker for additional pharmaceutical and therapeutic companies. Wu, Scott, and Yang did not report any disclosures.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
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