Genentech study reveals health equity perception gap between patients and doctors

Black, Latino and other marginalized groups continue to think the healthcare system is stacked against them—and the COVID-19 pandemic made unfair treatment worse.

Although healthcare providers agree with the need for change, there’s a gulf between how they believe they treat marginalized patients and what patients say they actually experience, Roche's Genentech's second annual health equity study found.

While 9 in 10 HCPs said they strive to treat their patients as equals and try to be sensitive to their feelings, many of the marginalized patients surveyed didn’t agree. About half said they even stopped going for healthcare services, because they weren't feeling understood or didn’t think their doctor would help

Genentech's survey asked 2,200 patients—roughly half from “medically disenfranchised” groups—about their healthcare experiences.

In addition, this year Genentech polled more than 400 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants, hoping to get a clearer picture of the provider-patient relationship.

RELATED: Genentech aims high with new diversity goals, including doubling hires and spending $1B with diverse suppliers

Among patients from disadvantaged communities including Black, Latino, LGBTQ+ and low socioeconomic status, more than half (54%) felt the system was “rigged” against them, slightly more than last year (52%).

Half of patients belonging to those groups said their feelings toward the healthcare system have worsened since the outbreak, compared to a third of those polled from the general population. 

When asked about the most important aspects for building trust in the healthcare system, the marginalized patients listed “being taken seriously by your HCP” and “trusting them” as their top two responses.

RELATED: Pharmas pledge support for health equality in 2020, more to come

The findings suggest the patient-provider relationship should be at the heart of health equity efforts, and pharma companies, HCPs and others in the industry need to work directly in marginalized communities to build trust, Quita Highsmith, Genentech’s chief diversity officer, said in an email interview.

“We’ve got to build coalitions and partnerships, and it can start in small personal interactions in community spaces—what I call the three Bs—the bishop, barbershop and beauty salon,” Highsmith said.

Drug companies and others in the industry also need to step up to give providers the tools to build “meaningful, empathetic and culturally responsive” relationships with patients, she said.

Genentech, which has already been working with research institutions on ways to include more diverse groups in clinical trials, is now leveraging those partnerships to develop best practices for HCPs to better serve patients from marginalized communities, Highsmith said.

The company is “diving deeper into the experiences of each group in our study in hopes of sharing that information and informing more targeted and intentional efforts to enact change,” she added.