An analysis of race-related patient safety reports by ECRI shows that both patients and healthcare providers are frequently on the receiving end of inappropriate comments about race. A review of more than 500 patient safety incidents related to race showed that 57% were related to patients making inappropriate racial comments or engaging in racist behavior. Racist incidents committed by staff were the focus of 42% of reported incidents. 

“As health systems implement diversity, equity, and inclusion plans, the needs of providers of color must be taken into account, as well as those of patients,” says Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO at ECRI. “Creating an equitable and safe environment requires recognizing when racist incidents occur and taking action in response.” 

ECRI experts say experiencing repeated race-related safety incidents can have an extremely negative effect on providers’ mental health. They may consider leaving healthcare, a particularly acute threat to hospitals and health systems that are currently experiencing serious staffing shortages. 

ECRI and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices PSO analyzed a full year of events related to racial or ethnic minority groups and sorted each incident into seven categories: 

  1. Patient/family making inappropriate comments regarding race or ethnicity: 56% 
  2. Patient claiming that others are racist or engaged in racist behavior: 22% 
  3. Patient/family reporting disparate care because of patient/family race or ethnicity: 9% 
  4. Staff making inappropriate comments regarding race or ethnicity: 7% 
  5. Staff reporting management or supervisor discriminating against them: 4% 
  6. Patient requesting for provider or staff member based on race or ethnicity: 1% 
  7. Interpretation or translation services not provided: 1% 

“This analysis provides a snapshot into the experiences of racial and ethnic minority groups at every level of care delivery,” adds Dheerendra Kommala, MD, chief medical officer at ECRI. “More needs to be done. ECRI is working with healthcare institutions to set up organizational procedures to identify, report, and resolve these issues.” 

ECRI’s Deep Dive: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and Healthcare report details a three-tiered approach to help health systems understand, detect, and reduce disparities and race-related safety events.