Diversity and inclusion are essential in any workplace, but they are critical for healthcare organizations that want to provide the best levels of care for all.
According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), health inequities (differences in health based on their socio-economic status) contribute to health disparities (disadvantaged populations having obstacles to receiving optimal healthcare).
It’s well-documented that minorities and disadvantaged groups struggle to receive the quality of healthcare (and health outcomes) we all deserve. And that’s why hospitals and other places of care have a responsibility to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare.
Putting this into action takes effort, so we’re covering some realistic strategies organizations can take.
What Is Healthcare Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?
First, let’s define what we’re talking about:
- Diversity in healthcare means ensuring the medical field represents all ethnicities, beliefs, and backgrounds to provide the best care to all patients.
- Equity in healthcare is providing the same level of care to everyone regardless of socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, and other personal characteristics.
- Inclusion in healthcare means encouraging diversity in healthcare staff and the voices that contribute to quality care for patients.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (or DEI) ensure that healthcare organizations offer a level playing field for everyone providing and receiving care.
With that in mind, let’s look at some best practices for promoting DEI.
1. Know Where You’re Starting
You can’t improve without knowing what needs to change. Assess your organization’s current culture for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Be honest about how you’re doing.
For example, surveying healthcare staff and patients and establishing focus groups can help you understand and identify current issues.
2. Decide What You Want to Improve Upon
Once you understand the most pressing issues, decide on two to three areas to improve. Plan to track these factors over a set period (such as one year) and check in regularly on changes and progress.
For example, a goal might be to meet a certain percentage of female doctor hires or people of color in leadership roles. Benchmarking against other organizations can help you develop goals specific to healthcare.
3. Track Progress and Success
Next, decide how you’ll go about tracking improvements in diversity, equity, and inclusion at your healthcare organization. Schedule regular progress checks to see if you’re on track.
4. Establish a Team of Ambassadors
Consider designating specific diversity and inclusion ambassadors to discuss different patient needs and perspectives. The team can also highlight the experiences of other cultures amongst healthcare staff and how that influences patient care.
5. Provide Training on Unconscious Biases
Staff must understand common unconscious biases in the workplace, such as:
- Stereotyping based on age, gender, or race
- Affinity bias — favoring someone over others based on similarities to yourself
- The “halo effect” — putting specific people on a pedestal based on personal characteristics.
- Perception bias — treating someone poorly based on stereotypes about a group they belong to or other personal characteristics
Formal training on these areas can help staff check themselves for unfair opinions or feelings they might not even realize they have.
6. Continue the Conversation Daily
Besides formal training, make DEI a regular part of the conversation regarding giving and receiving care.
7. Account for Diversity in Marketing and Materials
Look at each aspect of your organization through the lens of diversity and inclusion. How can you improve your marketing materials, branding, recruitment efforts, and job postings to be more inclusive of everyone involved?
There is always room for improvement in the workplace, especially when caring for others’ health and well-being. Use these best practices to keep cultivating a healthy and equal environment in your organization.