Negative or positive language that medical professionals use in patient records can have an impact on healthcare delivery and may contribute to disparities in care, according to study findings published on 14th July 2021 in JAMA Network Open.

Negative feelings toward patients expressed in medical records included questioning patient credibility and stereotyping patients by race or class, while positive expressions included direct compliments and minimization of blame, researchers say.

The report suggests that:

  1. Medical professionals should increase their awareness of potentially stigmatising language in order to avoid expressing bias in patient records, which could affect care quality.
  2. Medical records should contain objective rather than subjective language and should state observations of medical fact.

Stigmatisation can harm patients, and in a medical malpractice case, the medical record serves as a document of care rendered to the patient, and inappropriate language or opinions included in a patient's record could be damaging.