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Implementing DEIA principles in healthcare: a blueprint for providers

Here are six strategies to foster more inclusive and equitable healthcare practices.

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By: Dr. Amrita Patel, DDS

Today, the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) have become fundamental pillars in various spheres, especially healthcare.

As healthcare practitioners navigate the complexities of patient care, it's imperative to ensure that DEIA principles are not just buzzwords but are also deeply ingrained in daily operations and organizational culture. But how do we do this?

Here are some strategies for practitioners to effectively incorporate DEIA principles, fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.

1. Understand DEIA.
To effectively implement DEIA principles, healthcare practitioners must first comprehend their significance. 
  • Diversity encompasses differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and more. 
  • Equity emphasizes fairness and impartiality, ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities and resources. 
  • Inclusion involves creating an environment where diverse individuals feel valued and respected, contributing to a sense of belonging. 
  • Accessibility ensures that healthcare services are available and usable by all, regardless of physical or cognitive abilities.

    Healthcare practitioners should undergo comprehensive cultural competency training to understand the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of their patients and customers. This training should address implicit biases, stereotypes, and cultural nuances that may impact patient care. By fostering cultural competence, practitioners can effectively communicate with patients from different backgrounds, provide personalized care, and build trust.

    2. Prioritize diversity and inclusivity in the hiring process.
    Organizations should prioritize diversity in their hiring practices, helping to ensure that their workforce reflects the communities they serve. Healthcare practitioners can advocate for diverse recruitment strategies and participate in selection processes to promote equity within their organizations. Moreover, promoting diverse individuals to leadership positions fosters inclusive decision-making processes and role modeling for junior staff.

    3. Create accessible facilities.
    Healthcare facilities should be designed to accommodate the needs of all patients, including those with disabilities and diverse cultural backgrounds. Practitioners can advocate for accessible facilities, language interpretation services, and culturally competent signage and materials. Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment can help patients feel comfortable seeking care and reduce disparities in healthcare access.

    4. Adopt a patient-centered approach.
    Adopting a patient-centered approach involves understanding and respecting the preferences, values, and backgrounds of each patient. Healthcare practitioners should engage in active listening, involve patients in decision-making processes, and tailor care plans to individual needs. By acknowledging and addressing the unique circumstances of each patient, practitioners can deliver more effective and equitable care.

    Practitioners play critical roles in addressing health disparities by advocating for policies and interventions that promote health equity. This includes addressing social determinants of health, such as income inequality, housing instability, and access to education. Practitioners can collaborate with community organizations, participate in advocacy efforts, and incorporate health equity frameworks into clinical practice.

    5. Engage in training and participate in community efforts.
    Incorporating DEIA principles into daily operations requires ongoing education and reflection. Healthcare practitioners and their teams should engage in regular training sessions, workshops, and discussions to deepen their understanding of DEIA concepts and challenges. Additionally, practitioners should reflect on their own biases and privilege, seeking opportunities for personal growth and development.

    Collaboration with community organizations and stakeholders is essential for promoting health equity and addressing the unique needs of diverse populations. Partnerships with community-based organizations to develop culturally responsive programs and services can offer those involved a greater reach and allow more patients to be helped. By engaging with community members, practitioners can gain insights into local health priorities and build trust within underserved communities.

    6. Be an advocate.
    Lastly, but most importantly, healthcare practitioners have a responsibility to advocate for policy changes that advance DEIA principles at the local, state, and national levels. This may involve supporting legislation to address healthcare disparities at the grassroots level, advocating for increased funding for underserved communities, and promoting inclusive healthcare policies. Practitioners can leverage their expertise and influence to drive systemic change and create a more equitable healthcare system for all.

    About the author: Dr. Amrita Patel, DDS, is a general dentist in private practice in Westchester County, New York, and an adjunct faculty member in the Dental Hygiene program at the University of South Dakota. She graduated from the NYU College of Dentistry in 2011 and completed a general practice residency immediately afterward. From 2018-2020, she chaired the New Dentist Committee of the New York State Dental Association and served as the new dentist member on the American Dental Association (ADA) Council on dental benefit programs in 2021. She was the recipient of the New York State Dental Association Bernard P. Tillis Award for Excellence in Dental Writing, the ADA 10 Under 10 Award in 2021, which recognizes 10 new dentists from around the country for excellence in their work and inspiring others, and a Denobi Award in 2022. Dr. Patel is a national lecturer who focuses on student, resident, and new dentist engagement. Her areas of expertise include wellness, time management, and conflict resolution for dentists and dental team members, and demystifying dental benefit plans for early career dentists.

This content is for informational purposes and does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, tax, or investment advice, or other professional services by neither Provide, its affiliates, nor Fifth Third Bank, and it is being provided without any warranty whatsoever. Please consult with appropriate professionals related to your individual circumstances.

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