Do poor patients suffer from inaccurate diagnoses more than well-to-do patients? A randomized control trial

Ibrahim Al Alwan, Mohi Eldin Magzoub, Ali Al Haqwi, Motasin Badri, Sarah M. Al Yousif, Amir Babiker, Sílvia Mamede, Henk G. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Poor patients have greater morbidity and die up to 10 years earlier than patients who have higher socio-economic status. These findings are often attributed to differences in life-style between groups. The present study aimed at investigating the extent to which physicians contribute to the effect by providing relative poorer care, resulting in relative neglect in terms of time spent with a poor patient and more inaccurate diagnoses. Methods: A randomised experiment with 45 internal medicine residents. Doctors diagnosed 12 written clinical vignettes that were exactly the same except for the description of the patients' socio-economic status. Each participant diagnosed four of the vignettes in a poor-patient version, four in a rich-patient version, and four in a version that did not contain socio-economic markers, in a balanced within-subjects incomplete block design. Main measurements were: diagnostic accuracy scores and time spent on diagnosis. Results: Mean diagnostic accuracy scores (range 0-1) did not significantly differ among the conditions of the experiment (for poor patients: 0.48; for rich patients: 0.52; for patients without socio-economic markers: 0.54; p > 0.05). While confronted with patients not presenting with socio-economic background information, the participants spent significantly less time-to-diagnosis ((for poor patients: 168 s; for rich patients: 176 s; for patients without socio-economic markers: 151 s; p < 0.01), however due to the fact that the former vignettes were shorter. Conclusion: There is no reason to believe that physicians are prejudiced against poor patients and therefore treat them differently from rich patients or patients without discernible socio-economic background.

Original languageEnglish
Article number386
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 22 2019


  • Clinical reasoning
  • Medical errors
  • Poor
  • Rich

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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