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Health-Care Bias Not Just Black and White

Sex, Location Are Also Factors in Popular Knee Replacement Surgery

Blacks Underserved continued...

The new study is useful because it adds those two new dimensions to help explain why minorities get worse treatment, says H. Jack Geiger, MD, ScD, of the City University of New York Medical School, a longtime researcher on how race affects health outcomes.

"It's especially useful because black men have the worse health status of any population group in the U.S.," he tells WebMD. "This study indicates that it will take a systematic effort by everyone -- government programs, physician organizations, and grassroots groups -- to collect data for recording race and ethnicity for various types of care and procedures, so we know what's being done to whom and what needs to be fixed."

Take a Stand

What does this study mean to you? No matter your race, sex, or ZIP code, it's important to be a proactive patient -- whether you need a joint replacement or another procedure.

"The best ammunition you have as a patient is to try and track down as much information as you can about a particular procedure," Skinner tells WebMD. "If you have information on the risks and benefits, you will have a better time getting information than if you are passive. For this procedure, even if your primary care doctor doesn't have an 'in' with an orthopaedic surgeon, if you want the surgery, being persistent is really important in your getting it."

Knickman tells WebMD that this study illustrates the need to shop around: "If you live in an area where you are nervous about the quality of health care, go to another hospital, especially for an elective procedure and if you're on Medicare. The key is to ask a lot of questions."

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