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» The Value of Culturally Sensitive Healthcare: How Employers Can Enhance Outcomes for People of Color and Black Communities

September 13, 2023

Acrisure, Business Strategies, DEI, Digital Health, Employee Benefits, Employee Engagement, Employee Experience, Fertility, Health Equity, Healthcare Innovation, Human Resources, Leadership, News, Research

In recent years, the healthcare industry has made significant strides toward providing more equitable care for all individuals. However, disparities in healthcare outcomes still persist, particularly for people of color and black communities. Just look at recent news about a difficult pregnancy for Serena Williams and the prepartum death of Torie Bowie for proof.

“Black people are nearly three times more likely to die during or after birth than those who are white.”

In our role as benefits consultants, it’s crucial that we recognize the importance of implementing initiatives with our employers like care navigation and community and content platforms to ensure access to culturally sensitive healthcare while also raising awareness about health disparities. Let’s explore the issue today and then the value of helping employees find the right care in a complicated healthcare system.

What is Care Navigation?

Care navigation is a proactive approach to assist employees and members in finding and accessing appropriate healthcare services. When we put a specific focus on cultural sensitivity, care navigation can untangle the often complex healthcare system. By connecting patients to doctors who have an understanding of their unique cultural needs, care navigation helps build trust, improves communication, and ultimately enhances healthcare outcomes.

Health Outcome Disparities and the Value of Cultural Sensitivity in Care

Various studies have highlighted the persistent disparities in healthcare outcomes for people of color and black communities. These disparities can largely be attributed to cultural differences, bias, and lack of access to culturally competent care. Implementing care navigation programs that prioritize cultural sensitivity can help address these disparities and improve health outcomes.

“Black patients are less likely to trust their doctor and more likely to refer to online resources for health information”

Improve Health Outcomes by Seeing Culturally Sensitive Doctors and Providers: The Case for Black Physicians

One crucial aspect of providing culturally sensitive healthcare is the inclusion of Black physicians in care navigation programs.

Representation matters, and having Black physicians involved can significantly impact the patient experience and outcomes. Black physicians have a unique understanding of the cultural nuances, historical contexts, and social determinants of health that affect black communities. This familiarity enables them to provide more tailored care that is responsive to the specific needs of their patients, ultimately improving healthcare outcomes.

Unfortunately, just 5 percent of US physicians are Black, while 13% of the US population identifies as Black.

Culturally Sensitive Care Improves Trust and Communication between Black and POC Patients and Providers

Gaps in cultural understanding between providers and patients have various implications for care.

1 in 5 Black women avoid the doctor due to concerns of discrimination and research has found that physicians under-treat Black women’s pain.

Trust is a fundamental aspect of successful healthcare outcomes. Unfortunately, historical experiences of systemic racism within the healthcare system have eroded trust for many people of color (Tuskegee Study, Henrietta Lacks). By working with black physicians and incorporating care navigation programs, organizations can help rebuild trust within these communities. Patients who feel understood and supported by healthcare professionals who share their background are more likely to engage in open and honest communication. And providers who are properly trained and aware of implicit bias can better diagnose and treat patients, which leads to better adherence to treatment plans and improved health outcomes.

Culturally Competent Care Leads to Better Outcomes for Patients and Employers

Culturally sensitive healthcare provided through care navigation programs helps address the unique healthcare needs of people of color, leading to improved outcomes. This is an ethical call to action for employers who sponsor a health plan and thereby provide healthcare access and funding to employees and their families.

By connecting patients with Black physicians who are familiar with their culture, language, traditions, and beliefs, care navigation ensures that healthcare is provided in a way that patients find respectful, culturally appropriate, and effective. This approach reduces barriers to care, avoids misunderstandings, and encourages greater patient engagement, resulting in improved health outcomes.

Within the context of employers and employer-sponsored healthcare, culturally competent and sensitive healthcare is critical. Beyond the ethical arguments, there are numerous business reasons for a company to support employees with accessing culturally competent care:

  • Diverse employees and members are better engaged and less likely to leave
  • Reduction in absenteeism and presenteeism from mis and undiagnosed conditions and undertreatment
  • Increased benefits utilization, like primary care, mental health care, and health screenings
  • Reduced health plan costs related to misdiagnoses, unnecessary medical procedures, and outcome disparities

Leaders Must Address Culturally Competent Care for Their Workforce

As human resources leaders, our clients have a responsibility to advocate for inclusive and equitable healthcare practices.

Implementing care navigation programs that prioritize cultural sensitivity and involve Black physicians can help address disparities and improve health outcomes for people of color and communities. Hopefully, this article has helped drive home the value of providing culturally sensitive healthcare to improve outcomes and better support members and the community.

If you’re interested in exploring solutions for your workplace, please schedule a complimentary call with a consultant today and check out our September 21st webinar on the subject with Ashlee Wisdom, CEO of Health in Her HUE.

Some additional resources to further explore this topic:

Posted by in Acrisure, Business Strategies, DEI, Digital Health, Employee Benefits, Employee Engagement, Employee Experience, Fertility, Health Equity, Healthcare Innovation, Human Resources, Leadership, News, Research