Have you ever been to the doctor and don't quite understand what the provider is telling you, or are you a healthcare worker and you don't understand your patients? Should the healthcare provider get diversity training or should they maybe learn new languages? More than ever before, healthcare professionals are subjected to dealing with a number of immense and different cultural diversities. While diversity is often a term used to refer specifically to cultural differences, diversity applies to all the qualities that make people different. Diversity requires more than knowing about individual differences and it key for overcoming cross-cultural barriers in healthcare.
As cultures within the U.S. continue to grow at a huge number, the understanding of how to deal with them must also grow. The U.S. is projected to become increasingly more ethnically and racially diverse by 2020. Anyone who has faced the challenge of visiting a hospital in a non-English-speaking country knows both how frustrating and how frightening it can be. When there is any impediment to the healthcare professional's ability to discuss your situation and options or your own ability to ask questions, the likelihood of receiving the care you need is compromised, sometimes dangerously.
If cultural differences are not communicated appropriately it can cause uncomfortable and confusing situations for both the healthcare provider and the patient. This can cause the patient to suffer due to loss of trust and respect, causing the patient to be less likely to follow a treatment plan. I feel that culturally competent healthcare is considered a human right. Everyone should receive the same treatment.
Knowledge of cultural practices can also be important in determining a correct diagnosis and treatment. Differences in culture, language, and literacy between providers and patients can lead to ineffective communication about symptoms, medications, and supplements. Examples of cultural barriers include instances in which the healthcare provider may overlook harmful interactions between medications and traditional remedies used by the patient, and circumstances in which the provider is unfamiliar with cultural elements connected with racial or ethnic groups. The values and expectations that a patient brings to the care experience may be in conflict with the values of the clinician who is providing care.
These limitations may lead to faulty diagnoses, unnecessary laboratory testing, medication-related errors, decreased adherence to therapy, or missed opportunities for early detection and preventive measures. The consequences of cultural disconnect are disparities in the quality of care received by racial and ethnic minority populations. It is important that health care practitioners recognize cultural practice and not let it distract them from the real problem.
Since different cultures such as Hispanics, Hmongs, or Mexicans, vary in the way they perceive health and illness and how care is given, being culturally competent and ethnically diverse and accepting is going to become more and more important in the delivery of western medicine. Former President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race and Health Town Hall Meeting on July 10, 1998, defined cultural competency as "being able to give care to people of different cultures."
Cultural competence seems to be showing up more and more in all aspects of healthcare. It's one of the main ingredients in closing the disparities gap in health care. The reason seems to be: achieving cultural competency is top priority; because it is the right thing to do. Not only is it important in the way patients are evaluated, but how they are treated and educated (medically and pharmaceutically) about their health and maintaining good health. This could be as simple as speaking their own language and describing medical conditions in their own language.