Cultural Competancy and Medical Training

March 31, 2008 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

There is an interesting article this week in USAToday that explores the importance (and effectiveness) of cultural competency training for physicians as an important element in address disparities in health care.

Here are some excerpts:

[A] growing amount of research is investigating whether small cultural differences — most of them between white, male doctors and their diverse patients — could be a big reason for the nation’s persistent health care disparities…

The federal government is financing studies examining whether the training can help health care workers get diverse groups to comply better with doctors’ orders.

But no study has proven cultural competency training works, either by improving doctor-patient relationships, increasing patient compliance or reducing disparities.

But examining the question is the first step to addressing the problem, says Ramon Jimenez, chairman of the diversity advisory board of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Cultural competency will have to be on everybody’s radar screen for generations to come. When the day comes that the melting pot is truly a melting pot, then we won’t need this, but that day isn’t here yet.”…

It is common for black patients to distrust doctors and hospitals for many reasons, including a general distrust of hospitals, fear that doctors may recommend surgery when it isn’t necessary and concern they may suffer bad outcomes, says Tony Rankin, an orthopedist in Washington and the first black president-elect of the Orthopaedic academy.

Not all doctors are as keen on cultural competency training, especially if it’s mandatory. Joseph Zebley III is a white male and a family doctor in Baltimore. His patients are mostly African-American and Southeast Asian, and he also sees many Haitians because he speaks French, the language of his mother.

“Just because I happen to be a white male doesn’t mean I’m not comfortable with African-American culture in Baltimore city,” Zebley says.

Some doctors may be uncomfortable with unfamiliar cultures, but courses in cultural sensitivity aren’t the answer, he says. “You can’t really teach that. You have to bond one-on-one with the patients. Otherwise, you can do all the cultural competency training in the world, and it’s not going to make a difference.”

    You can see the full article here.

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    Entry filed under: In the News.

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