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“Quality Care”: Meeting the Unique (and often “Unequal”) Needs of Today’s Diverse Population

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Posted by Suzanne Salimbene.

At the end of January, I wrote about today’s diverse U.S. population, and the need to re-examine the concept that everyone should be treated in an equal manner especially in healthcare. In addition, I think it is also important to re-examine the concept of “quality care”. We cannot assume that the care considered good by one cultural group will be considered good by members of another culture, nor can we assume the manner patients wants to be treated.

Healthcare professionals can and should treat patients in the manner that they wish to be treated and thus meet their unique definitions of “quality care”.

A common U.S. “guideline” to the treatment of others in healthcare is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. However, in today’s very diverse healthcare climate, my textbook, What Language Does Your Patient Hurt In? A Practical Guide to Culturally Competent Care suggests that this saying be modified to advise that one should learn the manner in which the other person wishes to be treated and treat that person accordingly.

Here are a few ways healthcare professionals can treat patients in the manner that they wish to be treated and thus meet their unique definitions of “quality of care”.

  • Question each patient regarding whether he or she wishes to be told the prognosis—whether good or bad.
  • Ask how healthcare decisions are usually made in his culture and whether or not (and how much) he wishes to be active in that process.
  • Use the information provided in the text to ask questions regarding use of alternative medical practices or medications.
  • Ask what people in his or her cultural or religious group usually do or take when faced with a similar medical problem AND whether or not he believes in the viability of such actions.
  • Ask whether there are any foods or beverages that he believes are either beneficial or harmful in his condition.
  • Ask whether there are any cultural or religious ‘rules’ of which you and other caregivers should be aware.

In what ways do you think you can modify your own definition of “quality of care” to meet both your ethical views as a healthcare professional and those of your culturally diverse patients?

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