• African Americans;
  • technology;
  • medical;
  • attitude;
  • diffusion of innovation;
  • veterans

BACKGROUND: New medical technologies are used at different rates among whites and blacks. This variation may be partially explained by racial differences in patient innovativeness—the propensity of patients to adopt unfamiliar therapies.

OBJECTIVE: To measure how innovativeness varies among patients and how it may influence patients' attitudes toward new medical technologies.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.

PARTICIPANTS: Primary care patients (n=171–108 blacks, 63 whites) at an urban Veterans Affairs medical center.

MEASUREMENTS: Respondents answered questions about their general innovativeness and innovativeness regarding medical technology, and they responded to a vignette describing either a hypothetical new prescription drug or implantable device.

RESULTS: There were no significant racial differences in general innovativeness, but whites had higher medical technology innovativeness (P=.001). Whites were also more likely to accept the new prescription drug (P=.003), but did not differ from blacks in acceptance of the new implantable device. In multivariate analyses, lower medical technology innovativeness scores among blacks were significantly associated with less favorable reactions to both the prescription drug (P<.001) and the medical device (P<.001). In contrast, although whites with lower medical technology innovativeness were similarly less inclined to accept the new implantable device (P=.02), there was no significant association between medical technology innovativeness and positive attitudes to the new prescription drug among whites.

CONCLUSIONS: Blacks and whites have differing attitudes toward medical innovation. These differences are associated with significant racial differences in response to particular health care technologies. These findings suggest potentially remediable causes for racial differences in the utilization of innovative medical technologies.