tracelogoRBCultural competency is essential to safe, effective health care.


 Why is Cultural Competency Important image


The United States is the most diverse country in the world.  Its citizens are of all backgrounds, cultures, languages, races, ethnicities, and beliefs.  This diversity presents challenges to health care professionals.  By improving our cultural competency, we can deliver more effective care to each patient, regardless of his or her heritage. 


What is Cultural Competence? 

Cultural Competence is defined as the ability of physicians and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural and linguistic needs of patients. 



The goal of culturally competent health care services is to provide the highest quality of care to every patient, regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural background. 



Why is it important?

The ability to accept differences and communicate effectively across barriers of language and culture directly affects patient safety, the patient's treatment and treatment outcome.  



Under the Affordable Care Act, it is expected that more than 10 million new patients with limited English speaking skills will have access to health insurance and health care services. 



Patients bring to the health care encounter cultural backgrounds, beliefs, practices and languages that require culturally competent communication to maximize the quality of care they receive. For instance, patients and physicians may have different understandings of the relationships among illnesses, illness symptoms, etiology, expectations about appropriate treatment, and what is expected of them in the process. 


A provider's own cultural background may affect their communication in the care delivery process if they are unable to recognize or accept differences between themselves and their patients.  This may manifest subtly in communication patterns perceived by the patient, or may subconsciously affect clinical decision making.


Mere knowledge of the broad differences between various cultures is not, by itself, enough. Even two patients of the same ethnicity with the same health condition can have very different experiences and expectations for their health care, based on their individual socioeconomic status, education level, cultural traditions, religious or spiritual beliefs, and personal histories. 


In some cultures, asking questions of health care professionals is not an acceptable behavior. Patients from these cultures may be less likely to ask even clarifying questions and, subsequently, may not understand their condition or be able to follow their treatment plan, potentially resulting in a lower quality of care or even medical error.  Also, many patients utilize traditional remedies and may be reluctant to inform you of these, leading to potentially dangerous situations.



Understanding cultural differences not only can improve the effectiveness of treatment, it can also help safeguard against potential liability and malpractice claims. 



Cultural competence is an important component of overall excellence in health care delivery and can directly impact patient safety, the patient's treatment, and treatment outcomes. In order to provide the most effective care, it is essential that we are knowledgeable about the diversity and cultures of the population groups we serve.