MULTICULTURAL CARE: Plans Push ‘Cultural Competence’
As doctors increasingly treat more patients from different ethnic backgrounds, many observers say "ethnic sensitivity" and "cultural competence" will be a must for doctors in the future. According to Dr. Elena Rios of the National Hispanic Medical Association, many HMOs are asking their doctors "to get closer to their patients in hopes of improving outcomes and boosting patient satisfaction, even if it means thinking ethnically." American Medical News reports that some HMOs, such as Kaiser Permanente, have begun "formal sensitivity training for nonminority physicians ... aimed at coaching doctors on everything from cultural stereotypes to the importance of physical gestures, folk medicines and ethnic foods in medicine." Dr. J. Mario Molina of the Long Beach-based Molina Medical Centers said, "It boils down to communication," adding that the "challenge lies in balancing a respect for culture with the skill to get patients to comply with good medical care and knowing the nuances." While physicians "generally support diversity training" despite some concerns over its efficacy, some doctors aren't so supportive. Dr. Robert McElmurry said, "Tailoring medicine to a patient's cultural differences is divisive, racist and can only lead to anxiety in patients." Most doctors, however, agree that the real solution would be getting more minorities through medical school (Kim, 1/25 issue). Click multicultural health for previous CHL coverage.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.