Term Paper: Diversity in the Healthcare Industry

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Diversity in Healthcare: A Synopsis of Current Trends

Diversity in Healthcare

Minorities and Health Care

Diversity and Women

Ecosystems Approach to Diversity

Managing Diversity: Best Practices

Progress in Reform

Diversity in Healthcare

Human Resource Management is a diverse and wide encompassing field that embraces a number of topics, not the least of which is diversity management. As the world becomes increasingly multi-dimensional and diverse, the issue and importance of diversity initiatives has permeated almost every industry, including the health care industry. Diversity within the health care industry is a growing problem, and one that administrators and HR representatives are working to identify and address. The following synopsis examines the current state of diversity within the health care industry and suggests approaches to alleviating diversity issues within the industry at large and within the communities the healthcare industry serves.

Minorities and Health Care

In a brief institute report published by the State Legislature in 2002, the Institute of Medicine's committee chairman Dr. Alan Nelson reports that minorities are still more likely to receive a lower quality health care than white Americans and even less likely to receive routine medical procedures, whether or not they have insurance.

According to the study, differences in the quality of health care provided minorities may result in increased mortality rates among minorities. The article points out that despite efforts to incorporate diverse practices and equality within the field of healthcare, many minorities are still subjected to unequal treatment and racial disparities with regard to the quality of health care they receive.

The study also reveals that racial and ethnic minorities are much less likely to get treatment for serious conditions including HIV and cancer. According to the Institute patient and provider attitudes combined are to blame for the inequality that exists. The study suggests that "system-level factors" exist that contribute to racial and ethnic inequality in the healthcare industry, and that among these are language barriers, geographic barriers, cost containment pressures such as those imposed by managed care and even attitudes and beliefs.

According to Dr. Nelson patients have difficulty establishing a relationship that is trusting with regard to healthcare, in part because they have a difficult time relating to and communicating with physicians, and in part because providers are often hurried and pressed for time, thus don't spend an adequate amount of time assessing patient's needs and illnesses. Even more so, the committee chairman suggests that clinical "uncertainty" often leads pressured and hurried providers to "fall back on stereotypes" with regard to minority health care issues.

The biggest challenge for the future of the healthcare industry according to this report is addressing the inequality. The Institute of Medicine has suggested an education and awareness campaign that will help increase the public's acknowledgment and awareness of the inequalities and disparities that do exist with regard to health care. In addition the Institute has recommended that publicly funded health plans work toward increasing the diversity of health care providers because racial and ethnic minority providers "are more likely to serve in minority and underserved communities."

Among the educational recommendations presented include increased awareness regarding the manner in which stereotypes may influence a physician's behavior. In inner cities physicians also have to work toward providing more quality care for patients living in less well off areas.

Diversity and Women

Expanding on the first article surveyed, the article "Health Care Needs of Medically Underserved Women of Color: The Role of the Bureau of Primary Health Care" discusses the significant health care problems that exist for underserved populations, particularly women. The authors suggest that when access is severely limited as is the case in many minority groups and poverty stricken areas, people have a tendency to obtain health care services that are less quality oriented, if they seek out any health care at all, resulting in poor health outcomes.

Underserved populations according to the article generally reflect a tradition of not seeking medical care which is reflected in the higher mortality rates and increased rates of chronic and acute diseases among this population including cancer, heart disease and strokes.

The intent of the authors is to describe the potential benefit of the Bureau of Primary Health Care and other public services in combating diversity-based health inequality particularly in medically underserved populations and among women of color. The Bureau of Primary Health Care according to the article was developed as a diversity agent to help increase access to "comprehensive primary and preventive health care" as well as improve the health status among underserved populations. The program targets families and individuals that traditionally do not have access to adequate primary health care.

Among the barriers to health care identified by the researchers for underserved populations include insufficient health insurance, old age, poor health outcomes, insufficient supplies of physicians and cultural, attitudinal and linguistic barriers. The study take the approach that diversity is an essential component of the health care industry but that practitioners and medical facilities have yet to become fully diverse and embrace the entire population as a whole.

The risk of limited access to medical care is increased substantially according to the authors not simply by being minority but also by being a woman. For diverse programs to succeed in reaching underserved populations the article suggests that the healthcare industry work on examining the healthcare delivery system with regard to geographical location, culture, language and financial aspects. In general primary physicians willing to work in areas defined as underserved are hard to find, thus another emphasis of the industry should be establishing a core of physicians reading, willing and able to work in these areas.

The article also discusses 12 health status variables that have been designed to measure "The extent and distribution of vulnerability in state and county populations" which has determined that more than 43 million Americans still lack access to quality medical care, to a primary physician and more, and that most of these individuals are poor, young, female and uninsured (Barrett, et. al, 1998).

The study suggests that diversity effort be targeted not only on medically underserved populations but also be gender specific, in order to address the health care deficit that exists for poor young females in many regions of the nation.

Ecosystems Approach to Diversity

In the article "The Inclusive Workplace: An Ecosystems Approach to Diversity Management" the author argues that health care organizations and organizations in general throughout the nation need to expand their concept and understanding of diversity to include the larger system that constitute the organizational environment, not simply the organization itself.

Barak introduces the concept of an inclusive workplace where an organization doesn't simply accept and utilize diversity within its own workforce, but also is active in diversity programs that target the community. For the healthcare industry or an organization to be diverse, one may therefore conclude according to Barak's comments that it must not simply adopt diverse practices, but also must actively engage in activities that help it reach diverse communities, as well as participate in state and federal programs that are designed specifically to help the working poor.

The article suggests solutions for the diversity issues presented in the first two articles. Barak takes an "ecosystems" perspective of diversity, suggesting that the industry would benefit from collaboration across cultural and national boundaries. The focus of a diverse program would be promotion of patient-physician mutual interests.

Diversity problems according to the author are more caused by a healthcare organizations lack of ability to "integrate and use a heterogeneous workforce at all levels of the organization." This is evidenced by the lack of minority physicians available to serve underserved communities as mentioned in the previous article. The argument presented in the article is that for organizations to be truly diverse they first need to focus on internal processes and expand their notion of diversity so that it includes not just a single healthcare organization but the healthcare environment in general.

This will include considering the larger community and the people in the community that might be impacted and benefited from more diverse practices and inclusive practices. Barak introduces the concept of an inclusive workforce, which is a workforce that accepts and uses diversity within itself but also is active within the community and participates in programs designed to include the working poor. An inclusive and diverse workforce within the healthcare industry thus would also collaborate across cultural and national boundaries in order to focus on common interests. The healthcare industry that is truly diverse could be defined as one that utilizes "inter-group differences" within the workforce to its advantage, is one that cooperates and contributes to the community at large, one that helps modify and address the needs of underserved populations and one that collaborates with other health care organizations and communities across "national and cultural boundaries."

Barak goes one step further to suggest that the social work field can help implement diverse work programs within the health care industry by helping foster better relationships among medical care providers and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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