Cultural Competency Means Better Patient Service

By Edlin, Mari | Drug Topics, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Cultural Competency Means Better Patient Service


Edlin, Mari, Drug Topics


Although cultural competency is one of those terms with many definitions, Kathleen B. Kennedy, PharmD, dean of Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy in New Orleans, has a few pointed words to describe the process they represent: respect for people with different backgrounds, based on religion, language, education, gender, abilities/disabilities, and national origin - not just on racial, social, and ethnic differences.

It is a dynamic process, along with a patient-centered care approach, influenced by demographics and social determinants," Kennedy said during a recent annual meeting of the American Pharmacists Association.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health defines "cultural competency" as a "set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or agency, or among professionals, that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations."

The LEARN model

Patient-centered care, Kennedy emphasized, will improve communications, enhance patient satisfaction, increase adherence, and ultimately make for better outcomes.

On the other hand, Kennedy said, lack of cultural competency may increase the cost of healthcare, discriminate against populations with disproportionately higher rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and infant mortality; and open the door for malpractice suits.

She employs a model she termed LEARN, which she recommends that providers use with all patients:

* Listen to the patient's perception of the problem.

* Explain your point of view

* Acknowledge and discuss the differences and disparities in perceptions of the problem.

* Recommend treatment.

* Negotiate treatment.

Keep your eyes open

Kennedy advised providers to look at each patient as an individual. "Many of us suffer from cultural blindness, ignore differences among people, and only meet the needs of dominant cultural groups," she said.

As the U.S. population grows more diverse, a primary challenge is understanding the healthcare beliefs and needs of various groups. While certain ethnic groups dominate different areas of the country - African Americans in the South and Asian Americans in the West, for example - Kennedy noted that the Hispanic population is growing at a fast dip (18% by 2025), as are African Americans (13% during the same period).

Kennedy asked audience members to consider when they first felt "different," and not just because they might be a part of a minority group. …

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