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Can Fam Physician. 2019 Aug;65(8):e363-e369.

Patient perspectives on routinely being asked about their race and ethnicity: Qualitative study in primary care.

Author information

1
Family physician at St Michael's Hospital Academic Family Health Team in Toronto, Ont, Associate Scientist in the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St Michael's Hospital, Associate Professor and Vice Chair Quality and Innovation in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, and Adjunct Scientist at ICES in Toronto. tara.kiran@utoronto.ca.
2
MD candidate in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
3
Unit Lead in the Survey Research Unit at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St Michael's Hospital.
4
Research coordinator at St Michael's Hospital.
5
Scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St Michael's Hospital, a staff physician in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at St Michael's Hospital, Assistant Professor and Clinician Scientist in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, Adjunct Scientist at ICES, and Assistant Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
6
Founder and director of the Upstream Lab at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St Michael's Hospital, a family physician and public health and preventive medicine specialist in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at St Michael's Hospital, Associate Director for Clinical Research at the University of Toronto Practice-Based Research Network, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, and Assistant Professor (status only) in the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and the Division of Clinical Public Health in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To understand patients' perspectives on responding to a question about their race and ethnicity in a primary care setting.

DESIGN:

Qualitative study using semistructured individual interviews conducted between May and July 2016.

SETTING:

An academic family health team in Toronto, Ont, where collection of sociodemographic data has been routine since 2013.

PARTICIPANTS:

Twenty-seven patients from 5 of the 6 clinic sites of the family health team, ranging in age, sex, educational background, and immigration status.

METHODS:

Semistructured interviews were conducted with patients who completed a sociodemographic questionnaire after registration for their medical appointment. Patients were asked whether responding to the question was difficult or uncomfortable, how they interpreted the term race and ethnicity, and what response options they considered. Interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed, and coded iteratively.

MAIN FINDINGS:

Patients did not report discomfort with responding to a question about race and ethnicity in their family doctor's office. Although many patients considered the question straightforward, some patients reported different interpretations of the question. For example, some thought the question about race and ethnicity related to parental origin or ancestry, whereas others considered the question to be about personal place of birth or upbringing. Many patients appreciated being able to select from a variety of specific response options, but this also posed a difficulty for patients who could not easily find an option that reflected their identity. Patients with mixed heritage experienced the most challenges selecting a response.

CONCLUSION:

Patients attending a primary care clinic were not uncomfortable responding to a question about race and ethnicity. However, patients had different interpretations of what was being asked. Future research should explore perspectives of patients in other primary care settings and test different methods for collecting data about their race and ethnicity.

PMID:
31413042
PMCID:
PMC6693598

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