New guidelines issued to improve cultural competency

Maya Rhodan | 5/6/2013, 10:56 a.m.

“Culture is language – it’s the way that we through signs, customs, beliefs, practices present ourselves to other people, understand other people,” said Leon Rodriguez, director of the office of civil rights at HHS. “Proper communication is not just a civil rights issue, it’s about delivering the best quality care ‒ this is all about delivering good care, this all about good business.”

Although helpful, the standards are not mandatory; they are merely a set of guidelines put in place to assist the medical community better serve people of color.

Studies have shown that cultural competency training improves the patient-health care provider relationship. However only six states have legislation that requires or suggests cultural competence training: Maryland, Washington, Connecticut, New Mexico, California and New Jersey.

Five states, including Illinois and Florida where 15 and 20 percent of the total populations are uninsured respectively, have vetoed or denied such legislation. Iowa, Colorado and Oregon also followed suit.

The authors of the standards believe that if they can get hospitals and health care providers to adopt their standards, both the patients and the medical community will be better served.

“We hope over time this will be good for practice and good business,” Koh said. “If every organization can at least start by saying we embrace these values and get leadership to infuse these values throughout everyday work, we can begin to gather more data that show that this is not only good practice, but it’s good for business.”