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Having a family doctor from the same ethnic group was associated with better quality of diabetes care for Chinese but not South Asian patients

March 9, 2015 Toronto

Chinese patients with diabetes received better quality of care when their family physicians were also Chinese. However, South Asian patients’ quality of care was not impacted by having a physician from the same ethnic group, according to new research conducted at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

In the study published today in Primary Care Diabetes, researchers wanted to determine whether sharing the same ethnicity as their family physician influenced the quality of diabetes care for Chinese and South Asian patients.

“Physicians from the same ethnic group may be able to overcome language barriers and may have a better understanding of the patient’s dietary practices or cultural norms,” says Dr. Baiju Shah, lead author of the study and senior scientist at ICES. 

The research found:

  • Seventy-three per cent of Chinese patients had a Chinese physician.
  • Forty-five per cent of South Asian patients had a South Asian physician.
  • Both Chinese and South Asian patients with physicians of the same ethnicity were older and had lower socioeconomic status than those with a physician from a different ethnic group.
  • Chinese patients with a Chinese physician were more likely to have a diabetes-related family physician visit, appropriate HbA1c testing for blood glucose levels and appropriate cholesterol testing.
  • South Asian patients who had South Asian family physicians were less likely to have appropriate HbA1c testing or a retinal screening examination.

“Our results show that shared ethnic origin itself does not drive quality of care for minority patients since the relationship was inconsistent between Chinese and South Asian populations. But instead ethnic origin may be a proxy for other factors like language that, when shared between patient and physician, lead to better care,” added Shah.

The researchers add that factors such as language, religion, country of origin, time since immigration, or other more specific measures of culture may be larger drivers in the patient-physician relationship, and should to be investigated to better understand strategies to improve care for visible minority patients.

The study “Family physician ethnicity influences quality of diabetes care for Chinese but not South Asian patients,” was published today in Primary Care Diabetes.

Authors: Baiju R Shah, Jeremiah Hwee, Sonia S Anand, Peter C Austin, Douglas G Manuel,  Janet E Hux.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

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