Healthcare News & Insights

6 strategies for increasing diversity in your hospital

A huge concern for most hospitals is decreasing disparities in health care between different groups due to an increasing focus on population health. Adding diversity to your facility at all levels can help bridge that gap. 

Patient outcomes can be worse for people from certain socioeconomic and ethnic groups. According to an article from Hospitals & Health Networks, people from marginalized groups, namely poor people and people of color, can have an average life expectancy 16 years lower than non-marginalized people, depending on where they live.

And despite the fact that minorities represent 32% of patients in hospitals, only 11% of executive leadership positions in those same hospitals are filled by minorities, according to a survey from the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The number of minorities in first-level and mid-level management positions rises to 19%, still significantly lower than the percentage of minority patients in those hospitals.

Why increase diversity?

Improving diversity has the potential to help close the gap between quality of life and health care in marginalized communities, according to the AHA, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and America’s Essential Hospitals.

These groups came together to issue a National Call to Action in 2011, and they emphasized that “increased diversity in leadership and governance” had the highest chance of effectively addressing healthcare disparities.

Put it into action

But how can hospitals actually put these findings into place? Here are six strategies to keep in mind when trying to improve your hospital’s diversity:

  1. Think outside the box. Race and ethnicity aren’t the only types of diversity to look for, per another article from Hospitals & Health Networks. Gender, age and experience can all add valuable perspectives. Millennials can bring a completely different point of view to a problem than someone older, so give them a chance when hiring. And look outside traditional healthcare fields. People with experience in finance, marketing or human resources can bring fresh ideas to your hospital.
  2. Start at every level. While diversity in the C-suite is essential, each level of your hospital should reflect the patients you see. In order for true changes to be made, diversity should be embedded into the very culture of your organization.
  3. Keep your hiring committees diverse, too. If all the members who select new staff members look the same, so will their hires.
  4. Actually use your diverse staff. People can sense when their position is more symbolic than meaningful. You’re more likely to retain diverse employees if they have a rewarding role, and if they sense they’re being used as window dressing, they’ll go somewhere they feel valued.
  5. Pass on the expertise. Marginalized people moving into executive positions could use advice from people who look like them to show them the lay of the land. And people who feel supported in their positions are more likely to stay at your hospital.
  6. Check up on it. Hiring diverse employees won’t make a difference if they’re not engaged with your hospital’s mission. Use surveys, meetings and other employee engagement techniques to make sure everyone feels included and committed to your health system.

Diversity initiatives can be difficult to sustain, but commitment to increasing diversity at all levels of your organization will bring new perspectives and values to your hospital, which can help decrease health disparities across the board.

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