Cultural competency crucial to quality healthcare

31% of responding physicians agree that their level of cultural competency affects their ability to provide the best care to patients from different races, religions, and sexual orientations.
31% of responding physicians agree that their level of cultural competency affects their ability to provide the best care to patients.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 6:40 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Lesly Morales hasn’t been to the doctor in two years.

That’s two years of worry and concern for people who don’t feel comfortable with the care they might receive from doctors. Now healthcare providers are making changes to the way they assist patients from different ethnic groups, religions, and gender identifications -- and learning why cultural competency is crucial to quality healthcare.

“I don’t go to the doctor as much and it’s because of those awkward interactions – especially at the beginning. I often have to educate them,” said Morales, who identifies as non-binary. Morales used the example of wanting to be more masculine presenting but said doctors don’t understand that Morales would benefit more from birth control that won’t change any hormones.

A study from 2015 found -- doctors felt underprepared seeing patients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

“Often times your physical health affects your mental health, your mental health affects your physical health – and so it’s just like this cycle and if doctors don’t understand then they’re only contributing towards continuing that cycle,” said Morales.

A recent study from Healthgrades found 31% of responding physicians agree that their level of cultural competency impacts their ability to provide the best care to patients from different races, religions, and sexual orientations. To address the issue, medical schools and hospitals, like Henry Ford, are offering cultural competency training. “Just recognizing and respecting that people come from different experiences and they experience different barriers when walking into a providers office or the hospital. It’s us understanding that we don’t all have the same experience,” said nurse practitioner at Henry Ford Jackson, Leslie Thompson.

Henry Ford identifies healthcare workers who have received extra training on cultural competency by using tags. “Standard medical care -- or it can be gender-affirming care, transgender care, patients can feel discriminated against, refusals for service, or they may delay or avoid getting care because of these concerns, or concerns over mistreatment, being misgendered, or even rejected in the healthcare system,” said Thompson.

Their Provider Tag Work Group allows tags to be placed on the hospital’s One Henry Find a Doctor website which identifies workers that have received extra training on cultural competency. “Have you received focused training on LGBTQ community care within the last three years – it really needs to be recent up-to-date training. And then we also provide the resources that we think to be the best and most up-to-date resources,” said Thompson.

Morales said doctors taking time to get educated on cultural differences is a step in the right direction. “I thinkthat speaks highly of you and it speaks highly of wanting to help our community.”

Henry Ford Health is one of the only two healthcare organizations in Michigan recognized as an LGBTQ+ healthcare equity leader.

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