Checking Up on Healthcare Diversity

John Commins, August 9, 2010

Where are you with healthcare diversity? Is your hospital or provider workplace hiring healthcare professionals who are representative of your patient demographic? Could a person who doesn't speak English, or who might have other cultural, physical, or emotional barriers, receive quality care at your facility?

And what about cultural competence in the healthcare setting? The subject crops up more these days because more healthcare professionals realize that terms such as "diversity" and "cultural competence" are not merely buzzwords but actionable strategies designed to improve outcomes.

As the nation becomes more diverse, so must the healthcare workforce. It's not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of quality care. If you cannot communicate with a patient, put them at ease, and gain their confidence, your ability to help them is severely diminished.

A lot of this is common sense.

A recent report from in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, for example,found that professional on-site interpreters in the ED greatly improved patient?and physician?satisfaction, and likely has a positive impact on outcomes.

"The magnitude of the difference was striking: Patients who had professional in-person interpreters were four times more likely to be satisfied than patients who didn't," said Ann Bagchi, of Mathematica Policy Research in Princeton, NJ, the lead author of Examining Effectiveness of Medical Interpreters in Emergency Departments for Spanish-Speaking Patients with Limited English Proficiency: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial.

"The results were the same for physicians and nurses, which could be important for reducing staff burnout and errors. The improved quality of care can also reduce the likelihood that a patient will return to the ER for the same health problem," Bagchi said.

Of course!

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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