What strides can you take to make your practice inclusive?
Medical ethics dictate that patients are not to be turned away from our practices for reasons such as race, disability, or sexual orientation. Yet, there’s more to making patients feel welcome than simply not turning patients away. How do we make our healthcare practice environments feel inclusive for patients regardless of whether or not they are part of a minority group? In general, it begins with seeing and serving our patients as individuals, based on their own personal needs.
Providing Inclusive Care to a Racially Diverse Patient Base
When serving patients of different races or cultures, the first thing that is important is to not assume that everyone feels the same way you do. Your beliefs and practices may be quite different from those of another culture. It’s always best to be open and ask your patients if there are any cultural beliefs or practices that you should know about in order to provide them the best care. Always respect any responses to these questions and be sure the patient feels validated. The goal isn’t to highlight differences, but rather to show that you want to provide the best care for this patient as possible. Recognizing a patient’s cultural needs is an important task.
Additionally, if you have patients who speak English as a second language, it’s important to account for this by having access to interpreters. Also, have written information in languages other than English so that these patients’ experiences are as smooth as every other’s. The Henry Schein Secure Chart Patient Portal provides bilingual features to help you involve a larger number of your patients through the web. If you see a diverse group of patients, and you use MicroMD EMR, this is a great tool to be more inclusive at your practice.
Accommodating Disabled Patients
When serving patients with disabilities, it’s important to have accommodations already in place for them. Patients with auditory disabilities should have access to a sign language interpreter or other resources. For those patients with vision loss, large print on forms or audio versions should be available to them. If you have patients with mobility issues, make sure your practice is easily accessible with the use of a wheelchair or other mobility aid.
Providing Inclusive Care to LGBTQ Patients
When caring for LGBTQ patients, there are a number of ways to help them feel welcome in your practice. First, it’s important to be educated on some key LGBTQ definitions and the differences between them. This will help in understanding how your patient defines him or herself. Next, display your support for individuals in the LGBTQ community by placing your organization’s nondiscrimination policy in a visible place.
When interacting with these patients, use inclusive language. This can begin even on your registration forms. Instead of asking for marital status, be more inclusive by asking for relationship status and using options such as married, partnered, or other. Add a space on your registration forms for “Preferred Name” as many patients who are transgender have a given name that they would rather not use as it does not match their gender identity, but have another name that they would prefer. Always reflect the patient’s language. Never presume, but instead follow the patient’s lead. Many in the LGBTQ community don’t like to subscribe to a specific label so don’t take it upon yourself to use one. Instead mirror what the patient says to you. And finally, always convey respect. This individual is trusting you with very personal and sometimes sensitive information. Make sure that their experience is a positive one.
Making healthcare inclusive comes down to one simple concept – respect. Treat each and every patient that walks into your practice with the same respect. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn about a culture or life experience different from your own.