Differences in provider recommendations for Black/African American and White patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2024 Jan 23:e14742. doi: 10.1111/nmo.14742. Online ahead of print.


Taylor Boyd 1 2Isabelle Garcia-Fischer 2Casey Silvernale 2 3Adjoa Anyane-Yeboa 1 2Kyle Staller 1 2


Author information

1Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

2Division of Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

3Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Background: Health disparities and barriers to equitable care for patients from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds are common. We sought to evaluate disparities in management recommendations among Black/African American (AA) patients seeking care for IBS.

Methods: We assembled a retrospective cohort of patients at two tertiary care centers who were self-identifying as Black/AA and attended a first gastroenterology consult for IBS. These patients were age- and sex-matched to White controls with IBS also attending an initial gastroenterology consult. Retrospective chart review determined patient demographics, income, comorbidities, as well as provider management recommendations including pharmacologic therapies and non-pharmacologic interventions.

Key results: Among 602 IBS patients ages 14-88 (M ± SD = 43.6 ± 18.6 years) with IBS, those who identified as Black/AA (n = 301) had a lower estimated mean income and were significantly more likely to have a number of specific chronic medical conditions. Black/AA patients were significantly less likely to have implemented dietary changes for symptoms prior to receiving a diagnosis of IBS from a gastroenterologist. Black/AA patients were also less likely to receive a referral to a dietician within 1 year following their diagnosis of IBS (p = 0.01). Black/AA patients were prescribed pharmacologic therapy more often for constipation (41.9% vs. 34.6%, p = 0.01). It was more common for White patients to present at the initial encounter having already initiated a neuromodulator (41.9% vs. 27.9%, p < 0.001).

Conclusion & inferences: Management recommendations for IBS appear to vary by race, specifically for dietary advice and referrals.

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