Our country is at a pivotal point in the healthcare transformation journey.
As leaders focused on shifting the industry from a “sick care” system to one that promotes health and wellness in communities across the country, we need to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Today’s patients are more informed and engaged than ever. The rising cost of healthcare, the aging of America, and the global economy are creating new demands that are forcing systems to think differently about the type of care provided and the best way to deliver it.
In addition, 10 years ago, the Affordable Care Act mandated that access to health insurance, as well as prevention and wellness programs, be equitable, and that coverage products not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or ability status.
These truths make it critically important for today’s healthcare leaders to focus on creating a diverse workforce that will help us achieve our desired outcome of health equity. In my view, the systems that will prevail are the ones that truly understand the role that culture, history, institutional racism and discrimination play in the ability or inability of individuals from different backgrounds to truly engage with the healthcare system in meaningful ways.
I believe that to break down biases and create the environments required to build better healthcare systems, we must acknowledge one of the root causes of bias: lack of knowledge or experience with diversity.
The capacity to create an experiential and innovative culture increases significantly when the workforce includes highly engaged individuals from diverse backgrounds who serve as senior leaders and policymakers, as well as frontline caregivers responsible for delivering high-quality care in an equitable, affordable and seamless manner.
Bias occurs when we do not have adequate experience with people from different backgrounds and we fail to acknowledge how individual behaviors can be shaped by what people endure both individually and as a community.
When working in a healthcare system, the establishment of environments that have the capacity to deliver equitable care comes from an ability to understand these differences and the roles they play in our ability to give and receive care in a manner that is compassionate and culturally appropriate.
Large systems like Providence that are leading the way in the nation’s healthcare transformation are well-positioned to demonstrate the value that investing in a leadership team with many different cultural and individual backgrounds can bring to delivering on our vision of Health for a Better World, and our promise of easing our patients’ way through the system.
Seven of Providence’s 12-person leadership team are women. There has been a 50% increase in women leaders at Providence over a three-year period, and the system uses a top-to-bottom approach to identify and elevate women leaders in every region at every level.
But this should not come as a surprise. We’re simply following our foremothers’ mission.
Providence, one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the country, founded in the Catholic tradition by women religious, has never shied away from new frontiers. As a woman of color on the leadership team, I recognize the responsibility I have to serve as an expression of God’s healing love by being steadfast in serving the poor and the vulnerable. That service comes in how we address the physical, social, and emotional needs of our patients.
The capacity to carry out our mission and to transform the health of the nation is dependent on breaking down biases by taking concerted efforts to build healthcare environments where differences in culture become tools that fuel innovation and engagement, as opposed to threats to the status quo. It is a blessing to be able to work with a team that is committed to creating systems of care that eliminate bias, enables the achievement of health equity, and is truly committed to being an agent of change.