Advocating for Your Patient Rights as a Person of Color

June 15, 2023

Racial disparity in health care is an ongoing challenge in the United States. While there are several social determinants, such as genetics and health behaviors, that impact the quality of healthcare an individual may receive, implicit bias is just one part of it. According to the CDC racial and ethnic minority groups, especially Black Americans are at a higher risk for stroke, cancer, heart diseases, asthma, and other ailments. Racism, both structural and interpersonal, negatively impacts mental and physical health, causing further inequalities across the social determinants of health.  So how will you ensure that you receive quality care as a person of color?

Taking Steps Toward Real Improvement

Changing racial injustice within healthcare starts with educating providers about their biases, but real change can also happen during conversations with loved ones or people speaking up when they witness injustices. When discussing racism in healthcare though, it would be impossible to ignore the correlation between insurance coverage and racism. Since 29% of Black Americans are on Medicaid (compared to 17% of White Americans), policy makers could make Medicaid coverage more meaningful by paying the physicians and hospitals more financial coverage for services rendered under Medicaid. For patients who don’t qualify for Medicaid or are not offered insurance coverage through employment, it’s important they know about discounted plans offered through

How to Receive Proper Care as a Patient

A poor patient-doctor relationship will prevent patients from thriving and being the healthiest possible versions of themselves. If you feel like the doctor doesn’t listen to you or rushes you through your appointment, then it’s time to shop around for a new doctor. Even if it takes going through several doctors before finding one that actually listens and takes their time with you, then this (unfortunately) is the process that’s required in order to receive proper care. A good doctor will explain all possible treatment options to their patients and then work with them to determine which one is best.

Besides changing doctors when you don’t feel heard or are given your due time, it’s important to speak up at your appointment. If you’re concerned about something, no matter how trite or embarrassing it might be, tell your doctor. They cannot make an accurate diagnosis if they don’t know everything that’s going on. After any doctor’s appointment, it’s important that patients request copies of their medical records. Medical records help both patients and other doctors keep track of any changes in your health. Lastly, patients should always follow-up with their doctors for test results instead of waiting to hear back from them.

Whatever you do, don’t let health coverage delay seeking medical attention. In case of an emergency, go to the ER; emergency rooms are required to provide treatment regardless of an individual having insurance or their ability to pay for services. There are also many medical facilities that provide routine care to people who don’t have insurance; these facilities include community health centers, departments of health, urgent care clinics who may offer reduced costs for those without insurance, and pharmacy care clinics.

Health literacy is important. This means being able to find, access, and make informed decision about one’s health. CDC’s Office of Health Equity has a series of short informative videos on these and other topics such as social determinants of health, racism and health, and intersectionality on their website.

Family physician Dr. Kimberley Foster advises that people need to be their own advocates; they should treat their own health concerns in the same way they would handle their child’s, which is often proactive. “At the end of the day it’s your health,” says Dr. Foster. “Don’t let politeness or fear stop you from being your own advocate.”

The number one thing anyone can do in ensuring they receive proper health care is to be their own health advocate. If you feel dismissed by any professional at any time, seek a second opinion elsewhere, and bring your medical records with you. can help people store all of their medical records and history in one place so that managing one’s health becomes less daunting. While racism is difficult to discuss, health problems can be even scarier, but with all of your history stored in one easy-to-access place, getting to the bottom of your health can become a more empowered process.

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