Clinician-patient racial/ethnic concordance influences racial/ethnic minority pain: Evidence from simulated clinical interactions

Steven R. Anderson, Morgan Gianola, Jenna M. Perry, Elizabeth A. Reynolds Losin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective. Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States report higher levels of both clinical and experimental pain, yet frequently receive inadequate pain treatment. Although these disparities are well documented, their underlying causes remain largely unknown. Evidence from social psychological and health disparities research suggests that clinician-patient racial/ethnic concordance may improve minority patient health outcomes. Yet whether clinician-patient racial/ethnic concordance influences pain remains poorly understood. Methods. Medical trainees and community members/undergraduates played the role of "clinicians"and "patients,"respectively, in simulated clinical interactions. All participants identified as non-Hispanic Black/African American, Hispanic white, or non-Hispanic white. Interactions were randomized to be either racially/ethnically concordant or discordant in a 3 (clinician race/ ethnicity) × 2 (clinician-patient racial/ethnic concordance) factorial design. Clinicians took the medical history and vital signs of the patient and administered an analogue of a painful medical procedure. Results. As predicted, clinician-patient racial/ethnic concordance reduced self-reported and physiological indicators of pain for non-Hispanic Black/ African American patients and did not influence pain for non-Hispanic white patients. Contrary to our prediction, concordance was associated with increased pain report in Hispanic white patients. Finally, the influence of concordance on pain-induced physiological arousal was largest for patients who reported prior experience with or current worry about racial/ethnic discrimination. Conclusions. Our findings inform our understanding of the sociocultural factors that influence pain within medical contexts and suggest that increasing minority, particularly non-Hispanic Black/African American, physician numbers may help reduce persistent racial/ethnic pain disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3109-3125
Number of pages17
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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