Doctor and nurse talking in healthcare facility corridor

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, about three-fourths of adults aged 50 years and older reported that their healthcare preferences either usually or always considered by their providers, a 9.5% increase over 2014. But the data also highlight inequities, investigators say.

In the updated analysis, published in June, investigators used data from the Health and Retirement Study, 2014 to 2018. LeadingAge, the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation conducted the study, which The SCAN Foundation funded. 

Care quality and patient satisfaction get a boost when patients’ wishes are honored, the authors noted. Preferences may encompass such factors as preferred medications and treatments, the facility where care is received, or clinicians’ experience and care demeanor. 

Although 73% of respondents overall felt that their preferences were honored, differences in response between racial, economic and geographic groups were stark, the analysts found. When the data was broken down, only 52% of Hispanic and 62% of Black adults reported that clinicians considered their preferences, compared to 83% of white adults.

Similarly, 66% of adults with household incomes less than $30,000 said that their care preferences were always or usually considered, compared to 85% of those with incomes greater than $75,000. Geography appears to affect these experiences as well. Respondents in the South were less likely to report that clinicians considered their care preferences (72%) when compared to those in the Northeast (76%), West (76%) and Midwest (80%).

“Numerous studies have shown that care that aligns with patient preferences is more effective,” said Marc Cohen, PhD, co-director of The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston and research director at Community Catalyst. “The health care system has a lot of work to do to address deep-seated inequities in how it listens and responds to patients of color.”

The chart pack can be found on The SCAN Foundation’s website.

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