Effect of patient socioeconomic status on perceptions of first- and second-year medical students

Woo, James K. H.; Ghorayeb, Sahar H.; Cheong K. Lee; Sangha, Harpreet; Richter, Suzanne
June 2004
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;6/22/2004, Vol. 170 Issue 13, p1915
Academic Journal
Background: Physician decision-making and perceptions of patients are affected by a patient's socioeconomic status (SES). We sought to determine if the perceptions of first- and second-year medical students are similarly affected. We also wanted to determine whether a student's own SES affects his or her perceptions of patients from a low or high SES background. Methods: Two similar videos of a physician-patient interview were created. One video featured a patient of apparently high SES and the other featured a patient of apparently low SES. Differences in SES were portrayed by means of clothing, accessories and dialogue. First- and second-year medical students at the University of Western Ontario were recruited to view 1 of the videos and to answer a questionnaire using a 5-point Likert scale. Results: Responses were obtained from 205 (89%) of the 231 medical students invited to participate. Respondents' perceptions of the low SES and high SES patients were significantly different in the following respects. The low SES patient was perceived to be less compliant in taking medications and less likely to return for follow-up visits; was perceived to have a lower level of social support, poorer overall health and a worse prognosis; and was perceived to be more adversely affected in his occupational duties by illness ( p< 0.05). Furthermore, second-year students who watched the video with the low SES patient were less inclined to want that patient in their practice than second-year students who watched the video with the high SES patient ( p=0.032). One hundred and six students (52%) were categorized as having high SES and 37 (18%) as having low SES (the remaining students were categorized as having mid-level SES). Among students who watched the video with the low SES patient, the level of agreement with the statement "This person is the kind of patient I would like to have in my practice" was greater among low SES students than among high SES students...


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