Today’s world is more globalized with people from diverse backgrounds, experiences and cultures intersecting within our communities. This makes it necessary for us to reexamine the types of healthcare services we offer, how they’re delivered and how we can make people feel welcome and able to access care that fits their needs.
Research shows clear discrepancies in healthcare. For example, we’ve found ZIP code affects lifespan and quality of life. People who live in more affluent ZIP codes tend to receive more preventive care with regular screenings that help catch disease during its earliest and most treatable stages. Those who live in less affluent ZIP codes tend to use the emergency room to address health concerns leading to less preventive care and fewer screenings.
The COVID-19 pandemic made these discrepancies more rampant and apparent. During this time, we saw how socioeconomic status, race and insurance play a role in the type of care received. It made us realize we need to have better training in place to understand biases.
Many people go through life based on their own experiences but don’t think about what another person has been through. It makes it even more important that organizations, especially those in healthcare, focus on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Diversity is making sure different types of people are invited to the table. Equity is ensuring all people at all levels receive the same access and treatment. Inclusion is making sure everyone feels welcome and valued.
- Diversity – All of us have a responsibility to surround ourselves with individuals or people different from ourselves. That’s because biases tend to permeate if you don’t have other perspectives. When we interact with other people and learn more about them and their experiences, they become human. This adds up to less discrimination throughout the healthcare experience.
- Equity – Everyone should be treated fairly and feel like they belong. In healthcare, this means making sure all patients receive the same level of respect, care and time. We also look at how employees are treated, recognizing that we do not all start from the same place. This allows us to make adjustments to imbalances to ensure opportunities are issued fairly and equitably.
- Inclusion – We want to make sure people from different backgrounds, orientation, positions and levels are considered and included. For example, at meetings and with care teams, we need to consciously plan to ensure there’s diversity. When making new policies, we want to think about the impact it might have on people from different groups. We also use belonging to take inclusion one step further. We want people to feel not only included but that they are welcome and their opinions matter.
All of this adds up to improved patient care and outcomes. Based upon historical events, many minorities distrust traditional healthcare and medical professionals. But diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are having a positive impact on these views. For example, more diversity in hiring means more patients will have a provider who is from the same culture or background. In addition, it’s important for all providers to have a clear understanding of implicit bias, microaggressions, neurodiversity, etc. This results in better understanding of cultural nuances and increased trust. If you trust your healthcare provider, you’re more likely to feel empowered to ask questions and follow through on treatment recommendations which will help improve your health and prolong your life.
At NorthShore University HealthSystem, we’re taking the following steps to move the needle:
- Recognizing and celebrating occasions, events and holidays that are meaningful to different cultures
- Using images with diversity in hospital materials and marketing
- Sponsoring and creating NorthShore Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for Women in Medicine, and LGBTQ+, African American, Hispanic and Asian team members
- Incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion training into the curriculum of all staff development and leadership training
- Forming employee focus groups to redraft the organization’s mission, vision and values
- Making sure the NorthShore Connect app and other patient communications are in people’s native languages
- Having multilingual staff available for calls and appointments
- Conducting NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health listening sessions ensure our team members experiences align with our mission, vision and values
Visit us online to learn more about our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.