Changing healthcare professionals' behaviors to eliminate disparities in healthcare: What do we know? How might we proceed?
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The patient-healthcare provider communication process--particularly the provider's cultural competency--is increasingly recognized as a key to reducing racial/ethnic disparities in health and healthcare utilization. A working group was formed by the Office of Minority Health, Department of Health and Human Services to identify strategies for improving healthcare providers' cultural competency. This expert panel, one of several working groups called together to explore methods of reducing healthcare disparities, was comprised of individuals from academic medical centers and health professional organizations who were nationally recognized as having expertise in healthcare communication as it relates to diverse populations. During the 2-day conference, the panel identified, from personal experience and knowledge of the literature, key points of intervention and interventions most likely to improve the cross-cultural competency of healthcare providers. Proposed interventions included introduction of cultural competence education before, during, and after clinical training; implementation of certification and accreditation requirements in cross-cultural competence for practicing healthcare providers; use of culturally diverse governing boards for clinical practices; and active promotion of workforce cross-cultural diversity by healthcare organization administrators. For each intervention, methods for implementation were specified. On-going monitoring and evaluation of processes of care using race/ethnicity data were recommended to ensure the programs were functioning.