Communicate with cultural sensitivity to connect with patients

Health care providers must break through their own hidden biases to connect with patients and enhance the quality of care, writes Dr. William Maples in Hospitals & Health Networks®, an AHA Media publication.

Dr. William Maples, who leads The Institute for Healthcare Excellence and serves as PRC’s Chief Medical Officer, contributed a lead article to the December 11, 2017, edition of H&HN. In the column, Dr. Maples describes four strategies that can enable healthcare professionals to recognize and correct hidden biases in order to build meaningful, productive relationships with patients and their families — and within their own care teams.

He argues that increased diversity throughout the healthcare field is creating exceptional opportunities to customize patient-centered care by communicating with an awareness of and a sensitivity toward the cultural attributes that make all patients unique. Caregivers need to recognize markers beyond racial and ethnic diversity to fully understand patients’ health needs. Factors such as economic or immigration status, religious beliefs, decision-making styles, and healing traditions all impact how providers craft care plans that will be meaningful and effective.

This means that healthcare professionals must be able to identify any underlying personal biases that may affect “patient interactions, the overall provider-patient relationship, and, ultimately, clinical outcomes, safety and efficiency,”

Four strategies for breaking through biases and enhancing the quality of care

To deliver the best possible care and ensure the best possible outcomes, healthcare professionals must fully understand the nature of the country’s diverse population and how their own biases and assumptions can impact the care they deliver. Dr. Maples recommends adopting these strategies for building bridges with patients and their families:

  1. Concentrate on relationships
  2. Unearth biases and assumptions
  3. Practice inclusive communication techniques
  4. Partner with interpreters

“Actively seeking opportunities to practice and improve culturally sensitive communication will go a long way toward connecting with patients who experience the American healthcare system differently,” he emphasizes.

To learn more about Dr. Maples’ strategies for communicating with cultural sensitivity, read the article in Hospitals & Health Networks®.

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