There is a lack of diversity among healthcare professionals in the United States. Healthcare organizations must improve diversity to ensure that all people are represented in the healthcare workforce. Doing so has a positive impact not only on the organization but also on patients and surrounding communities.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, fewer than 6% of physicians identify as Hispanic, despite Hispanics making up about 19% of the U.S. population.
Language and cultural barriers are compounding trauma for populations who are already disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The language barrier will continue long after the pandemic resolves: The U.S. Census Bureau projects that Hispanic people will comprise nearly 25% of the U.S. population by 2045.
Not only do we need more bilingual healthcare providers, but current bilingual providers need to be compensated more. They’re saving systems money by removing the need to hire an interpreter.
Diversity in healthcare has measurable benefits for both healthcare professionals and the communities they serve. Some of the key advantages of increasing the diversity of healthcare organizations include:
- Increased provider comfort levels: Studies show that students who have trained at diverse schools are more comfortable treating patients from ethnic backgrounds other than their own.
- Boosted creativity and innovation: A wide range of perspectives can lead to better solutions.11
- Enhanced understanding of value sets: A more diverse group of healthcare professionals will have a better understanding of colleagues’ and patients’ different belief systems.12
- Improved communication: Not only may some patients be able to more effectively communicate with providers who speak their language, but they might also receive better care. Patients with limited English proficiency experience higher rates of medical errors and worse clinical outcomes.
- Increased patient trust: Patients of color may be more likely to seek out care. A Stanford University study found that Black male patients who were treated by Black doctors were more likely to seek preventative services than those who were treated by non-Black doctors.
- Reduced health disparities: Improved cultural competence and ethnic and racial diversity can help to alleviate healthcare disparities and improve healthcare outcomes in diverse patient populations.13
- Improved employee engagement and retention: People take pride in working for companies that are making a positive impact in society.
Ultimately, to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care, we will need to address our country’s healthcare inequalities.