Healthcare News & Insights

How leaders can start healing health disparity

How can hospitals improve care quality for diverse patients and promote healthcare equality? The key is in hospital leadership. 

148230854Hospitals leaders are a crucial component in improving health equity and care for minority populations, says a Hospitals & Health Networks Daily article.

“Achieving healthcare equity is both a challenge and an opportunity for any organization” but still attainable, despite the financial, labor, technological and information limitations impeding facilities’ efforts, noted the authors.

The key is for leaders to acknowledge that achieving equity requires open communication and collaboration between parties with different cultural knowledge and experiences.

Seeing the health division

The first step is to acknowledge the problem — there’s a division in care quality between white patients and minority patients.

Health inequality between racial and ethnic communities is a serious issue occurring across the nation, according to a recent report from the National Academies’ Insititute of Medicine.

The report draws on a number of studies and shows that, on average, racial and ethnic minorities are receiving lower-quality health care, even when their insurance status, income, age and condition severity are the same as white patients.

In particular, research shows that minorities are less likely to receive proper treatments, medications or surgeries for heart problems, Kidney issues, cancer and HIV infections.

The report acknowledges that these trends aren’t necessarily because of overt prejudice or discrimination. Rather, studies show that well-meaning healthcare providers may unconsciously conform to certain negative racial attitudes or stereotypes. This may be due to a lack of experience with a minority community or uncertainty about patients’ conditions due to language barriers which lead to stereotyping.

Closing the health gaps

To address this care inequality, the H&HN article points out that pursuing quality care and health equity for these minority communities can, and should, be an organizational value rather than just a hopeful program or side project.

The article offers these three strategic approaches for correcting health disparities to help facility leaders serve diverse populations:

  1. Engage with diverse communities: Hospital administrators should openly interact and communicate with diverse communities. Not only does this community influence help develop effective policies, it can also give leaders an inside look at the origin and effects of health disparity in the community.
  2. Diversify hospital leadership and staff: Genuine cultural diversity can tremendously benefit hospital leadership. Diversifying your hospital’s C-suite brings in new perspectives which help ensure quality health care reaches the community through facility practices, policies and infrastructure.
    Leaders should also promote human resource strategies that recruit and train diverse staff members. It’s also important hospitals strategies and training go beyond cultural sensitivity and push toward cultural competency. In other words, it’s the difference between having a staff that “means well” and having a staff that actually does well for diverse patients.
  3. Develop cultural and linguistic services with evidence-based care measures: Providing quality care for diverse populations requires cultural and linguistic competencies. It’s especially essential to communicate with minority patients and their families in their own language to ensure that doctors have all the relevant medical info they need, and that patients fully understand their condition and treatment. Hospitals also should set up standardized data collections and measures of care to reduce health disparities, according to the H&HN Daily article.

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