Diversity has been a buzzword for a while now. In every field, every mission statement, and every strategic plan, common goals of “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” are often found.
And they absolutely should be.
Efforts toward creating more inclusive spaces, more equitable opportunities, and more diverse representation are needed. In healthcare especially, these efforts are not only important, but critical — they can mean the difference between someone receiving life-saving and affirming care, or not. But what happens when these buzzwords are just that — words?
Making Equity, Inclusion & Diversity In Healthcare Actionable
In a study, 85% of physicians agreed that social needs impact health, but only 20% said they were confident in their ability to address the social needs of their patients.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
Saying your organization is committed to diversity or accessibility isn’t the same as actually working towards it, and equity efforts require more than just putting some new words in your mission statement.
If you want to be intentional about making your healthcare organization a more inclusive space for patients and providers, there are many ways you can start. Here are three places to review that can help you assess — and if needed redefine — your commitments.
1. On Your Website
Even before the pandemic, between 75 to 80% of patients were using Google search before booking health appointments.
This means that the first place new patients may be getting to know you is not through their experience in your clinic, but through your website. And for returning patients, they may be returning to your website in between clinic visits for information or scheduling.
The landscape of healthcare websites is competitive, and yours has the opportunity to communicate your commitments and values. Patients want to know whether your clinic will be welcoming, accepting, and knowledgeable about their particular needs and life experiences.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- What values are communicated by our website, either explicitly or implicitly?
- Do the people — patients and staff — pictured on our website look like the patients we serve?
- Does our website offer information in multiple languages or in the local English used by our community?
- How easy is it to find information about things like pricing, affordable financing options, or other accessibility programs?
- Is our website ADA compliant, meaning it is accessible to people with disabilities?
2. In Your Programs
Part of your diversity and equity efforts may already include assistance programs that help your patients overcome obstacles to healthcare. While often including considerations for other determinants of health — like race, economics, and various social factors — it isn’t always simple to determine how successful these programs actually are.
In the same way that you want to be sure you’re getting honest feedback from your team, you also want to seek out honest feedback from your patients.
Knowing if existing programs are or aren’t working can help pave a path — not only for more successful programs — but for more diversity and equity in your organization.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- What are the obstacles to care that our patients are facing?
- How do we know that?
- What assumptions might we be making about what our patients need or want?
- What effort has our organization made recently to hear from patients directly regarding what is working or what could be more effective?
3. On Your Team
Every day, your team brings to life your vision and mission, all while bringing care and comfort to the communities you serve. You want to be sure you have a great group of people, and you want to provide them the tools to be the most successful they can be.
But sometimes our biases — whether they are personal or structural — can impact who gets a seat at the table. This, in turn, can impact the level of care provided by your organization.
Ensuring that your team of healthcare professionals is diverse isn’t just about creating a “look” of diversity. It also isn’t just about organizational success — though recent studies have found that more diverse businesses consistently outperform their less diverse competitors.
With a wider range of experiences, your healthcare team can provide more personal, informed, inclusive, and — simply put — better care to your patients.
Questions To Ask Yourself
- Who is on our board? Do they reflect the community we serve?
- Do the medical practitioners at our clinic speak the languages spoken by our patients?
- How are we soliciting honest feedback from our team?
- Does our team feel comfortable and safe discussing the challenges they may be facing in the workplace, like microaggressions or sexual harassment?
- What hiring practices or internal biases might be impacting who is hired at our organization?
You probably don’t have the answers to all of these questions. That’s okay.
Diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts must constantly be changing and improving — the work will always be ongoing. Asking yourself or your team some of these questions means you have an opportunity to look critically at the way your organization is operating and how that work can improve.
Don’t just assume you know all the answers, and don’t assume that your answers are reflective of the other people on your team or in your community. Diversity work isn’t something that can be done alone — it is stronger when we do it together.