Healthcare organizations have a growing responsibility to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts not only for their employees, but also to better serve patients and their families. DEI has been a recent focus for businesses and organizations across the world, but perhaps none stand to make a greater impact than the healthcare industry, as it directly affects patient health outcomes and quality of life in a profound way. In terms of healthcare, DEI efforts help organizations address:
Diversity: Understanding the background of employees and patients being served, including culture, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status. Also, hiring and retaining a workforce that is representative of the patient population served.
Equity: Ensuring healthcare workers have what they need to do their jobs and patients have what they need in and out of treatment settings to effectively benefit from best practices in treatment (not to be confused with equality).
Inclusion: Giving both employees and patients a voice to help provide/receive high-quality care, and encouraging the presence of a diverse healthcare staff in the treatment experience of patients.
By working to bolster DEI efforts, healthcare organizations have a unique opportunity to improve the lives of those providing and receiving care. Given that this is such an important responsibility, it can be difficult to know where to begin. The following strategies help outline key factors to consider as healthcare organizations approach DEI efforts.
1. Know your baseline
Thoroughly assessing your organization’s culture in relationship to DEI will help determine how well you’re currently performing and provide an indication of how far you need to go.
Example: Using patient and employee surveys or focus groups can help organizations learn more about the current perception of DEI.
2. Identify indicators of success
By selecting two to three factors that can be focused on over a fixed time period (e.g., six months or one year), your organization can implement targeted interventions and best practices to drive the success of DEI.
Example: Creating a goal to increase the number of staff members that are bilingual by 12% in one year to provide better care for non-English speaking patients.
3. Measure success
Tracking progress is key. Whether goals are creative around hiring, brand, or experience, routine progress checks should also be defined and scheduled on an ongoing basis to help quickly shift efforts if necessary and be sure objectives are being met.
Example: Gauging the number of training sessions for DEI education or increasing number of candidates with diverse backgrounds.
4. Bring everyone in
Understanding the organization-wide reach of DEI efforts cannot be overstated. While the Human Resources Department plays an obvious role in recruitment and hiring practices, don’t forget about the less obvious roles/departments that indirectly affect DEI.
Example: Consider the visuals used in marketing or the accessibility of information and services for various populations, such as having patient education materials available in multiple languages.
5. Establish leadership commitment
To truly impact DEI efforts in a meaningful and lasting way, executive leaders must fully commit and set the tone for the rest of the organization to follow. Channels for feedback will help to keep authenticity and accountability in the forefront of these efforts.
Example: Having leaders sign a commitment letter and displaying it for employees and patients alike sends a strong message that the organization takes DEI improvement seriously. Also having a patient community representative on your organization’s advisory board helps to ensure that leadership is informed by a variety of stakeholders.
6. Educate effectively
Providing education as a requirement for employees, such as cultural competency training is a great place to start. Vetted training with qualified instructors is key to minimizing implicit bias.
Example: Include required education as part of new hire onboarding and orientation. Additional courses can also be included and scheduled for follow-up training as needed.
Example Topics for Training on DEI
As part of an ongoing training plan, healthcare leaders should consider incorporating DEI education for all employees into part of the organization’s culture. To address DEI efforts, organizations should provide training on a wide variety of topics that include, but are not limited to:
- Changing populations of the U.S.
- Demographics of the organization’s patient populations
- Health disparities related to diverse populations
- Aspects of diverse cultures, such as languages, religions, spiritual practices, traditions, customs, beliefs, preferences and values
- How culture influences attitudes, behaviors and expectations related to health, medications, treatment regimens, healthcare, and healthcare providers
- Communication skills, such as teach-back, plain language, verbal and written instruction methods, interviewing, non-verbal communication and knowledge confirmation
- How and when to utilize interpreter services
- How to address confidentiality concerns
- How to meet diverse needs of patients with disabilities and/or cognitive or mental health impairments
Putting DEI into Practice
For providers to promote health equity through their practice, they need to understand the complexity of the intersection of these factors and how they impact treatment outcomes. To learn more about this, register for Impact Nation 2020 (a free, virtual event). This year, the event will include a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion track as part of Relias’ commitment to racial equity, which will focus on how to develop inclusive environments for patients and employees, as well as understanding the impact of factors such as implicit bias and cultural competency.
Dr. Rola Aamar, Clinical Effectiveness Consultant at Relias will lead the “Let’s Talk About Race-Related Health Disparities” session at this year’s Impact Nation conference on Tuesday, September 15, 1:45-2:15 p.m. (ET). Dr. Aamar’s session will examine health disparities and health inequity in the American healthcare system, specifically focusing on the role of factors such as social determinants of health, reimbursement requirements for treatment, and organizational expectations in providing treatment.
Improving DEI is becoming an increasingly important component of healthcare delivery. By understanding how DEI affects both employees and patients, healthcare organizations can improve workplace culture while providing better care. Ensuring DEI efforts are in place and effective will help healthcare organizations improve communication, increase patient satisfaction, and ultimately deliver higher-quality care.