The head of the nation's third-largest public healthcare system is calling on hospital leaders to aggressively promote inclusion and to reduce healthcare disparities, particularly among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patient populations.
In a speech delivered before a packed ballroom at the annual meeting of the American College of Healthcare Executives, in Chicago, Dr. Ram Raju, CEO of the Cook County Health & Hospitals System, urged healthcare executives to tackle the issue of healthcare inequality head-on.
"At no time in history is your expertise needed as much as it is today," Raju said.
Racial, ethnic and socioeconomic minority patients often go without care because of a lack of insurance coverage, mistrust of the healthcare system and other factors. And when those patients do seek care, their health outcomes are often worse, Raju added.
In the past, healthcare leaders "were totally oblivious to the role that cultural diversity plays on outcomes," he said. "We blamed patients for being non-compliant."
Raju emphasized the need for specialized services that target minority patient populations, including the use of medical interpreters and staff sensitivity training.
For the LGBT community, which Raju says has faced "exclusion, disparities and barriers to care," he named a number of what he called "easy fixes," such as replacing marital status with relationship status on hospital forms, and adding a "transgender" checkbox-in addition to "male" and "female"-to better capture data and indicate acceptance of patients' identity.
"Senior leaders play a crucial role in creating diverse, culturally competent organizations," Raju said.
More Live@ACHE Coverage