Healthcare organizations are providing unconscious bias training to their staff to combat the pervasive bias problem in the sector. However, there is still confusion about what implicit bias is and how it affects healthcare. Danielle Brooks, director of health equity at AmeriHealth Caritas, emphasizes that understanding that bias is inherent in everyone and is based on experiences and other factors is a good place to start. Empathic and humanized implicit bias training is necessary to encourage people to engage with the topic and create an environment in which people can grow and change their behavior.
Implicit prejudice affects patient care quality, a problem that plagues the medical field. Healthcare organizations are providing implicit bias training to their staff members to address this problem, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding about implicit prejudice and how it affects healthcare. Danielle Brooks, director of health equity at AmeriHealth Caritas, believes that understanding that bias is inherent in everyone and is based on experiences and other factors is a good place to start. AmeriHealth Caritas is a Medicaid-managed care organization that requires implicit bias training for many of its employees and offers it to contracted providers as well.
Bias can manifest in many ways, including people’s opinions on sports teams or geographic areas, but in healthcare, the consequences of unconscious bias can be serious. Emerging evidence links implicit bias to poor patient experiences and poor clinical outcomes. A December 2022 MITRE-Harris Poll survey found that 4 in 10 patients of any demographic group reported perceived bias from their providers, and that figure was higher among racial minority groups. Implicit bias can also impact what happens during healthcare encounters, with patients sometimes forgoing healthcare access altogether due to bias.
Brooks and her team of social workers, clinicians, research and policy experts, behavioral health professionals, community engagement representatives, and data scientists at AmeriHealth Caritas offer three layers of implicit bias training. The first layer is for service providers, the second is for internal workers, and the third is tailored training for specific member-facing departments. Nowadays, the majority of training takes place via Zoom. To provide more impactful sessions, Brooks conducts unconscious bias training with a functional mentality that takes the person’s role in the healthcare organization into account. The goal is not to erase someone’s biases, but rather to help them understand what implicit bias is, how it affects healthcare, and how they can identify their own biases.
Implicit bias training is challenging because trainees carry so much from their work and personal lives with them. Brooks emphasizes that implicit bias training needs to be empathic and humanized to be effective. Trainees are in a vulnerable position when they question their implicit biases, and further alienating them will not cultivate change. The environment needs to be comfortable and human to encourage people to engage with the topic. Any respectful question gets a respectful answer, and implicit bias training is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to create an environment in which people can grow and change their behavior.