Cultural Competence in Healthcare

The most recent U.S. Census confirmed that our country has become more diverse than ever before. Clinicians are not insulated from this diversity. Patients present a broad range of perspectives regarding health and illness that are oftentimes shaped by their social and cultural backgrounds. In this changing environment, delivering effective cross-cultural care is rapidly becoming a major quality issue for health care systems, a risk management issue for physicians and a necessary skill set for all clinicians.




What is culture?

Culture can be seen as a pattern of learned beliefs, values and behaviors that are shared among groups. They include thoughts, styles of communication, ways of interacting, views on roles and relationships, practices and customs. Culture shapes how we explain and value the world, and provides us with the lens through which we find meaning.

What is cultural competence?

Cultural competence in health care describes the ability of systems and health care professionals to provide high quality care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors, including tailoring delivery to meet patients social, cultural and linguistic needs. Commonwealth Fund, Cultural Competence in Health Care Report

What is the patient-based approach?

This approach centers on the idea that the patients themselves are your best source of information about their cultural perspectives. Rather than using limited information to make assumptions about various cultural groups and their beliefs and behaviors, the patient-based approach focuses on the development of core knowledge and skills that are particularly useful in cross-cultural interactions.

How can cultural competence enhance quality of care?

Cultural competence education focuses on equipping health care providers with tools and skills to help them overcome some of the major causes of poor quality health care, especially for diverse populations. These include:

  • Misunderstandings due to language barriers and poor communication in the clinical encounter, which can lead to mistrust and medical errors.
  • Inadequate understanding of patients' beliefs and concerns about taking medications. This can contribute to non-adherence, poor health outcomes, and the widespread racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that are evident today.
  • Doctor shopping, late presentation of disease, and inappropriate use of emergency care, which can arise from healthcare experiences that are not culturally responsive.

If you are a doctor, the Quality Interactions E-Learning Program gives the learner the opportunity to interact with three diverse patients in a case-based, evidence-based format. Quality Interactions links the clinical encounter with cross-cultural teaching and allows the physician to ask patients questions to receive real-time feedback. Each case is supported by over 30 references with links to important Pub-Med. article abstracts, as well as helpful websites.
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If you are a nurse, the Quality Interactions E-Learning Program also offers health professionals the opportunity to interact with three patients in a case-based, evidence-based format. The interactions are more closely aligned with a nurse/patient interface.
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If you are a healthcare administrator — Cultural Competence is rapidly becoming a major quality issue for health care systems and a risk management issue for hospitals. For administrators who want to ensure their clinicians and staff are well-trained, Quality Interactions is the perfect solution.
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View a demonstration of Quality Interactions, narrated by one of the developers of the program Dr. Alex Green.