Patient Safety Week - new learning modules 

31 October 2019

Kindly provided with The Health Quality & Safety Commission 

The Health Quality & Safety Commission (the Commission) are encouraging GPs and health professionals to watch their new learning modules on understanding bias, which have been launched to tie in with Patient Safety Week.

The Commission’s Medical Director Dr Iwona Stolarek says clinicians can show both implicit and explicit bias, which can affect the care they provide to Māori and others. 

“It can be confronting and challenging as a clinician to accept that you might not treat all your patients equally. 

“But the data is clear. From before birth to the end of life there is inequity in the health sector. Services are not as accessible for Māori, and even after services are accessed, Māori do not experience the same benefits as non-Māori. Bias can have a big role in this.

“One of the first steps to overcoming this bias, is to recognise it. In these modules, health professionals are encouraged to examine their own biases and how they affect the health care they provide.”

Anthony Stevens and his teenage son Tonia are featured in the learning modules. Tonia has Down syndrome, and Anthony talks about the bias Tonia and his whānau have experienced from health services.

“We have found that health professionals and administration staff assume we don’t understand Tonia’s condition. They make comments like “You understand your son has Down syndrome?” or assume we’re poor because we are Māori.

“Often it comes across as patronising. In an ideal world, I'd just like to be treated in an open, honest way, and treated fairly regardless of my colour, race or creed,” Anthony says.

The modules have a strong focus on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, colonisation and racism.

Ria Earp, chair of the Commission’s Te Rōpū Māori (Māori advisory group), says failure to meet the requirements of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, failure to invest in Māori initiatives, and the ongoing effects of colonisation all contribute to poorer health outcomes for Māori. 

“The distortions built from implicit bias practice lead directly to institutional racism.”

“The articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi provide a framework to build and maintain equitable health for Māori,” she says.

About the learning modules: Understanding bias in health care

There are three modules focusing on: 

  • understanding and addressing implicit bias
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi, colonisation and racism 
  • experiences of bias

Each module comes with questions for learning reflections. Once these questions are answered, a certificate can be generated which is helpful when applying for professional development points. The modules will be available on the LearnOnline platform via the Commission’s website.

Supporting information on bias in health care will be available on the Commission's website including links to medical colleges and associations’ cultural competency information, health literacy information and further learning.

View the online modules


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