Does a Doctor’s accent really matter?

With today’s doctor crisis in Canada, where Canadian’s are unable to find a family doctor you would not think having one with an accent or without would be a concern for patients but according to a study by University of Alberta scientists, Doctors with accents are perceived as less competent than their peers.

Researcher Lorelei Baquiran said in a release that, “We were interested to see if there was a difference in a person’s perception of a doctor’s competence depending on the doctor’s accent.”  So, the study had Chinese-Canadian and Caucasian-Canadian participants listen to an audio recording of a doctor speaking.  Some of the study participants heard a doctor with a Chinese accent, while others heard a doctor with a Canadian accent.  The results found that both groups rated the doctor with a Chinese accent as less competent than the doctor with a Canadian accent, regardless of the severity of the disease the doctor was discussing in the audio recording,

The results show that regardless of the patient’s background or type of disease the doctor was discussing in the audio recording that participants rated doctors with Chinese accents as significantly less competent than those with Canadian accents.

Research suggests that the degree of acculturation is important with patients, but it should not be used to determine a person’s medical credential especially when approximately 18 percent of physicians in Canada were not born or trained in the country and provinces are actively recruiting doctors from outside of Canada to meet the current shortage.

It would be interesting to see if different regional accents within Canada would make a person’s perception of a doctor’s competence, so I guess further research is needed to determine that.

For now, we should just be happy if we have a family doctor, when we have too many we can be picky about their accent, but I think we are a long way from that.

By Jamie Barrie