Black and Latino patients are less likely than whites to believe their doctors care about them, a University of Pennsylvania researcher has found in a new study.

That means they may be less likely to seek medical help, adhere to physicians' instructions, or follow up with difficult treatments, wrote Abigail Sewell, a postdoctoral research fellow at Penn's Population Studies Center.

Her study, published in the journal Social Science Research, relied on an analysis of surveys of 2,800 adults.

She found blacks and Latinos were less likely than whites to trust the technical judgment and interpersonal competence of doctors.

The "trust gap" was even greater for Latino patients than for black patients.

"It reflects the relationship between immigrants and the health-care system," Sewell said. "Most people who are immigrants or have some immigrant connection feel more disenfranchised from the health-care system."

Some previous research on the topic has inappropriately lumped minority groups together, she wrote.

- Tom Avril