Caring for Patients from Diverse Backgrounds
The 2010 Census documented what we at BIDMC have observed for more than 15 years – we are becoming an increasingly diverse populace, requiring changes in all aspects of the health care delivery system from how we educate individuals about accessing healthcare in the U.S., to enrolling residents in insurance products and registering them in health centers and hospitals.
Health care providers are rethinking a myriad of
workforce-related issues from provider competencies, staff diversity and
educational training to support services that facilitate optimum care of
patients from so many different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
BIDMC has always emphasized the importance
of cultural considerations in providing appropriate care to patients. We
know that cultural influences determine cognitive constructs, including how
patients' define health, illness, and well-being, even dictating when and
if an individual seeks medical care. Certainly understanding one's cultural
background provides guidance for developing health promotion strategies as
well as influencing the design of treatment interventions and patients'
adherence to medical protocols.
With an intentional focus on these issues, BIDMC developed a set of tools
and approaches to ensure delivery of culturally-responsive care. From
intake assessment forms to multilingual patient satisfaction
questionnaires, we have tried to apply "culture eyeglasses" to facilitate
communication with, and understanding of, the patients' orientation and
experience. BIDMC was one of Boston's first hospitals with an Interpreter
Services department, expanding capacity and resources every year to
accommodate the growing numbers of Limited English Proficient (LEP)
patients. We have tailored services to facilitate specialty care for
patients of diverse backgrounds such as our Latina and Chinese Cancer
Patient Navigators. And, we are engaged in research specifically targeting
diseases that disproportionately affect health outcomes like our programs
for African Americans with chronic kidney disease.