Open Access Research article

Digging deeper: quality of patient-provider communication across Hispanic subgroups

Lorraine S Wallace1*, Jennifer E DeVoe2, Edwin S Rogers1, Joanne Protheroe3, Gillian Rowlands4 and George E Fryer5

Author Affiliations

1 University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

2 Oregon Health & Science University, Department of Family Medicine, Portland, Oregon, USA

3 University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

4 London South Bank University, Institute of Primary Care and Public Health, London, UK

5 University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Department of Pediatrics, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:240  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-240

Published: 21 December 2009



Recent research suggests that ethnic subgroup designation plays an important role in health-related disparities among Hispanics. Our objective was to examine the influence of Hispanics' self-reported ethnic subgroup designation on perceptions of their health care providers' communication behaviors.


Cross-sectional analysis of the 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Participants included non-institutionalized Hispanics (n = 5197; US population estimate = 27,070,906), aged ≥18 years, reporting visiting a health care provider within the past 12 months. Six (n = 6) items were used to capture respondents' perceptions of their health care providers' communication behaviors.


After controlling for socio-demographic covariates, compared to Other Hispanics (reference group), very few differences in perceptions of health care providers communication emerged across ethnic subgroups. Puerto Ricans were more likely to report that their health care provider "always" showed respect for what they had to say (OR = 2.16, 95% CI 1.16-4.03). Both Puerto Ricans (OR = 2.28, 95% CI 1.06-4.92) and Mexicans (OR = 1.88, 95% CI 1.02-3.46) were more likely to indicate that their health care provider "always" spent enough time with them as compared to Other Hispanics.


We observed very few differences among Hispanics respondents in their perceived quality of interactions with health care providers as a function of their ethnic subgroup designation. While our findings somewhat contradict previous research, they do suggest that other underlying factors may influence the quality of perceived interactions with health care providers.