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Code 3 Podcast: Unconscious racial bias in EMS

Jamie Kennel and Scott Orr discuss a study that revealed disparate treatment of patients based on race


AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Racial bias among EMS providers, even unconscious bias, has a significant impact on patient care.

In this episode of the Code 3 podcast, Scott Orr speaks with Jamie Kennel, the director of the Paramedic Program, a joint program between Oregon Health and Science University and the Oregon Institute of Technology, where he’s an associate professor. He’s also a cofounder of Healthcare Equity Group, which helps EMS organizations improve the equity of their care.

Kennel led a comprehensive study he led of nearly 26,000 EMS encounters in Oregon over two years. The results are disturbing. The data showed that medics were less likely to do a pain assessment on Hispanic and Asian patients than whites. It also found that black patients were 40% less likely to be given pain medication.

What’s going on here? Certainly, no medic goes on a run thinking that a minority patient’s going to get different treatment. Orr and Kennel discuss the problem of unconscious bias in EMS.

[Also read: Racial disparities in EMS]

Code 3 is hosted by award-winning journalist Scott Orr, who has covered the fire/EMS/police beat for most of his 30-plus year career in news. He’s worked around the country in both TV and print. Orr was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease over a decade ago, but that doesn’t stop him from interviewing fire service leaders on issues that concern firefighters around the nation.