In the United States, healthcare is not equal.
There are any number of factors that can impact your ability to receive the care you need — socioeconomic status, geographic location, sexual identity and orientation, race. These factors can all play a role in which resources you have access to, which can influence your health and generally lead to poorer health outcomes.
Racial health disparities, in particular, are staggering.
Racial Health Disparities In The US
- In 2017, more than double the amount of Hispanic Americans were uninsured compared to white Americans.
- In 2018, less than half the amount of Black adults received mental health services compared to white adults.
- In 2017, American Indian and Alaska Native adults were nearly 3 times more likely to have diabetes compared to white adults — and 2.5 more times likely to die from it.
- Compared to any other racial or ethnic group, Black Americans continue to have the highest mortality rate for all cancers combined.
Source: Center for American Progress
These are just a few of the many statistics that highlight the very real problem of racial health disparities in the US. While no solution can fully address this problem on its own, one has recently made its way to the forefront of the healthcare system — diversity in the healthcare workforce.
Many studies point to the fact that when healthcare professionals look like their patients, it enhances the quality of care for patients and the overall health status of community members — many of whom are impacted by health disparities.
The case for diversity in healthcare is airtight. And it’s exactly why healthcare organizations around the country are stepping up their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts, including hiring, retaining, and promoting a diverse staff.
The problem is — talking the talk and walking the walk are two different things. And unfortunately, too many organizations are all talk.
- Nearly 90% of all hospital CEOs were white — even though just 60% of the population was white.
- Just 5% of physicians were Black — despite nearly 13% of the population being Black.
Sources: American College of Healthcare Executives, Association of American Medical Colleges, US Census Bureau
With these disheartening statistics — and the fact that not much progress is being made — not all healthcare organizations can flaunt a diverse and inclusive healthcare workforce in good faith.
Unfortunately, many still do.
Being transparent about the diversity of your healthcare organization is key. But it’s also important not to be deceitful in the process, whether that’s in your marketing efforts, on your website, or in conversations with your community members.
As you amp up your DE&I efforts in your healthcare organization, here are 3 factors to keep in mind.
1. Actually Build A Diverse Healthcare Organization
Step one should be obvious, but just in case it’s not — everything starts with building a diverse workforce.
Our country is a diverse one, and it’s becoming even more so. In fact, according to projections from the US Census Bureau, patient populations will move to a majority-minority balance by 2045.
And yet, our healthcare system does not reflect that.
Now is the time to recruit, build, support, and retain a workforce that looks like and understands your patient population. When patients interact with clinical staff members who share their gender, race, ethnicity, or language, they’re more likely to build a strong rapport.
This leads to stronger interpersonal care, enhanced medical comprehension, and higher chances of sticking with follow-up appointments — all of which can help address health disparities.
2. Be Transparent About Where You Are
As a healthcare organization, it’s critical for you to come to a common understanding of your organizational values. Who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe in are key aspects of whether or not a patient will want to come to you for care.
If that includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion, make that known — within your organization, to your patients, within your community, and on your website.
At the same time, if you are not at a place where you can truly say you have a diverse workforce, don’t be dishonest.
For instance, don’t build a website using stock images that depict a diverse staff when that’s not the case. And don’t release statements of support that contain plenty of buzzwords but loads of empty promises. These actions are not only deceitful, but they are also misguiding for the patient experience.
3. And Be Transparent About Where You’re Going
Whether you have a diverse workforce or not, be honest about your organization’s goals for the future.
If your healthcare organization is already diverse, talk about how you are going to utilize those diverse perspectives to better serve your patient population and reduce health disparities. Be open about how you are supporting the people of color within your organization, including their growth toward leadership positions.
If your workforce is not yet diverse, discuss the concrete steps you are taking to get there. For instance, if you have a DE&I Committee, who’s on it? What do they do? Who is holding them accountable? Or, if you’re implementing hiring practices that support diversity, what are those exactly? What progress have you made so far? Who is overseeing this process?
Diversity and inclusion are no doubt an essential part of healthcare that must be enhanced, supported, and talked about.
As with all factors within your healthcare organization, be transparent — but be honest.