Summa Health Addresses Health Communication Among Minorities, Physicians
Summa Health System's Diversity Advisory Council over the last year has conducted focus groups of health care staff to determine how the health care system addresses the cultural, language and spiritual needs of its diverse patient population, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. According to the Beacon Journal, more than 90% of doctors and nurses contend that they have the necessary skills and training to effectively communicate with patients from different cultures and those unfamiliar with medical information. However, patients say they want doctors who can communicate clearly.
The council from fall 2006 through spring 2007 surveyed 60 patients and 190 medical professionals. The council found that:
* Asian-Americans would like hospital staff to speak more clearly and slowly, ensuring that they understand what is being said. They also prefer holistic treatment options and are skeptical of prescription drugs;
* Eastern Europeans expressed a concern for more interpreters;
* Muslims said they felt rushed at physician appointments and prefer physicians of the same gender;
* Blacks said they wanted more easy-to-understand medical information;
* Hispanics felt that hospital staff ensured they were communicating effectively with them, despite language barriers, but said they wanted physicians to spend more time with them and allow family members to be active in their care; and
* Participants also cited costs, navigating the health system and transportation as concerns.
According to the Beacon Journal, the survey of doctors and nurses "presented a short list of possible solutions," including that physicians spend more time with patients; doctors and nurses receive more specialized training; patients receive assistance in making appointments; and a patient advocate position be created.
Joseph Zarconi, Summa's vice president of medical education and research, said the effort to serve a diverse patient population is "very right-minded," though he cautioned that treating individuals based strictly on the survey's findings could lead to stereotyping, cultural insensitivity and poorer quality of care. He said it is more important for hospital staff to base care on personal life experiences than solely on race or ethnicity (Wheeler, Akron Beacon Journal, 9/16).