Caring for a Diverse Community

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.