Of these, 179 journals cited individual perpetrators of interpersonal racism, of which doctors and nurses were most mentioned. Interpersonal racism was associated with recurring themes, including disrespect, unprofessionalism and incompetence.
“Consumer reviews are incredibly powerful,” said Tong, who was the lead author of the study. “They are familiar, [and] they are a source of data that everyday consumers turn to more and more nowadays.
Tong said emerging research has even shown that low-income patients and patients of color rely more on social media and consumer reviews to report racism, as these are familiar platforms that are not associated with the mistrust and stigmatization of health systems.
Anietie Andy is a senior data scientist at the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health. He said one of the biggest findings from this study was that episodes of racism were two-way, meaning they flow back and forth between patients and hospital workers. According to the study, nine reviews demonstrated internalized racist behavior by the consumer, primarily aimed at nurses.
And while racist encounters were 2.5 times more frequently associated with clinical encounters, Andy said racism in non-clinical spaces also occurs and is more common when interacting with receptionists and security guards. Additionally, Tong said, this study shows that applying qualitative methods to publicly available consumer reviews can reveal information about experiences of interpersonal racism in healthcare that is not currently available to any other extent.