Learn What You Can Do To Promote Racial Equality in Health Care


Quick Tips
Ask questions until you understand the answers
Speak up if something's not right
Know your body, your conditions, your medications and test results

Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy

Be Informed and Involved 
Medical research shows that patients who are active participants in their care get better outcomes. Learn about your condition, treatments, and medications by asking questions, getting written information from your healthcare provider or pharmacist, or by going to a reputable medical website. Bring a trusted support person to be your advocate when you go to the healthcare provider office or hospital. For more information on patient safety and advocacy visit www.pulsecenterforpatientsafety.org

Effective Communication

Poor communication is a leading cause of patient harm in healthcare. Unequal treatment due to conscious and subconscious bias (prejudice) also contributes to patient harm. It is important for patients to be able to trust in, and feel heard by, their healthcare provider.  Only then can a partnership be formed - which supports asking questions, speaking up if necessary, and having a clear understanding of medical information and instructions. When the personal connection is not established for whatever reason then a team effort may not be possible and the health outcome may suffer.

When do I Need a New Healthcare Provider (Clinician)?

Healthcare professionals may be affected by heavy workloads, stress, and very often bias or prejudice on a subconscious level, just like most other Americans. Sometimes communication issues are resolved by the patient or family speaking up respectfully. If not it may be best to move on to a new clinician.

What is Important for You in Choosing a New Clinician?

When looking for a new clinician, we recommend individuals think about what's important for them in a doctor-patient relationship. Then, ask trusted friends, family, or even other clinicians, what do they like about their healthcare provider.

Some other considerations (besides insurance accepted):

  • Is there a long wait for an appointment?
  • Is there a long wait in the office waiting room or exam room?
  • Is the office staff welcoming and the office clean?
  • Does the clinician welcome his/her patients in a friendly manner?
  • Does she/he make eye contact and speak clearly and understandably?
  • Does he/she wash her hands before examining?
  • Is time allowed for questions?
  • Is there a diversity in the staffing of the office and among the people in the waiting room (such as one would expect to see based on office location)?

What You Can Do

  • With the Doctor or Nurse – talk Person to Person! Start off with a friendly greeting, making eye contact, to be sure you connect from the beginning.
  • Come to the visit prepared with a list to discuss your concerns. (See Health History)
  • Answer questions as honestly and completely as you can – If the healthcare provider does not have accurate information the incorrect problem may be diagnosed and the wrong treatment or testing may be recommended. (See Shared Decision Making)
  • Learn about your condition. Ask your healthcare provider to give written reading material. If you use the Web make sure it’s a reliable site. (See Health Literacy)
  • When a diagnosis, tests or treatments are discussed, make sure you understand. Let the healthcare provider know you want to do Teach-Back. Tell them what you heard to make sure you got it right. They may need to explain more than once. (See Teach-Back and Informed Consent)
  • If there are many interruptions, very little eye contact, rushing through the visit, reluctance to answer questions, or any other signs of disrespect – Speak Up! Tell your provider about your concern respectfully. For example: “Doc, you must be very busy today – Do you have time to help me?”
  • If communication with your healthcare team is not clear or caring, and speaking up about it does not resolve the problem, you may want to find another healthcare provider.

Helpful Practice Videos