Concerns about health care diversity, cultural awareness and health care disparities continue to elicit myriad reactions among C-Suite leaders and health care practitioners. Some reactions, as chronicled by Dr. Robert Like (M.D.) in his “A Failure to Communicate – Caring for Patients with Limited English Proficiency,” include ‘Isn’t this just political correctness [PC] run amuck?’ I also hear people say, ‘Well, how do you expect me to learn about every different population on the planet?’
However, today’s realities impel providers to view these concerns through a different lens, that goes beyond what is and what is not “PC.” Considerations involving health care diversity, cultural awareness and equity of care are more paramount, now, in health care than ever before. Affordable Care Act (ACA) legal mandates concerning population health management, alleviating disparities and 30-day readmission penalties all are, or will be, driving providers to examine such issues with more detail and resources than previously to address ACA and other federal legal requirements and provide patient care. Indeed, according to the American Hospital Association, “Eliminating linguistic and cultural barriers can help aid assessment of patients and reduce the need for unnecessary and potentially risky diagnostic tests.”
In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) new “Plan to Address Health Equity in Medicare” will focus health care’s attention even more on equity of care and disparity issues because of CMS’s singularly powerful role in regulating the Medicare program and penalizing hospitals for excessive 30-day readmissions. CMS’s significant weight, coupled with U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ expansive and newly proposed non-discrimination rule under ACA Section 1557 will substantially contribute to further forward progress in the equity of care and diversity conversation
But concerns about health care diversity, cultural awareness and health care disparities go beyond compliance with federal law. They also positively affect providers’ financial bottom lines. Simply put, they are good business and can result in significant increased revenues. For example, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study, “diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth.” A hospital that installed culturally competent maternity suites, with legally compliant and effective language assistance for limited English proficient patients and culturally aware staff experienced 2,000 more maternity in-patient stays than in the previous year, before adopting the culturally aware path to greater revenue.
The facts speak for themselves. Much more than “political correctness,” more than “the right thing to do,” health care diversity, cultural awareness, and alleviating health care disparities are good business and will continue to grow revenues for the health care providers that adopt them.
Bruce L. Adelson, Esq, CEO of Federal Compliance Consulting LLC, is nationally recognized for his health care law expertise. Bruce is a former U.S Department of Justice Senior Trial Attorney. During his Justice career, Bruce had national law and policy enforcement responsibility. Federal Compliance Consulting LLC provides consultation and training services across the United States and throughout the world. Bruce has been the testifying and consulting expert in several federal and state lawsuits, including cases alleging violations of federal language and disability access law by health care providers. In 2014, the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana qualified Bruce as an expert witness in several areas, including civil rights and allegations of discrimination.