How many work groups, committees and task forces has your organization deployed to tackle the increasingly important need for cultural competency?  Perhaps your organization has an entire department dedicated to fulfill the charge of diversity and inclusion purposefully outlined in a mission/vision statement.  Whatever the approach is to including this crucial and fundamental characteristic into your health services, there are a multitude of free resources available to help you meet your objectives.

Back in the year 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services commissioned an Office of Minority Health to create the National CLAS Standards – the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care.  These 15 standards, grouped into four domains, are intended to be a framework on how to deliver more equitable health without sacrificing quality.  With eliminating health disparities as the overarching goal of the standards, the standards explicitly describe actions that ensure care is delivered with genuine empathy based on patient preferences.

In December 2016, the NCQA published a toolkit, “A Practical Guide to Implementing the National CLAS Standards”, that is a comprehensive collection of training materials, tools and assessments aimed to satisfy each of the standards.

Of importance to note is that the tool kit is intended for organizations that have already committed to implementing the CLAS Standards.  Checking for organizational readiness and buy-in should not be overlooked and is highly recommended for the success of your initiatives.  Reviewing already collected patient feedback on cultural awareness can be an excellent source for assessing specifically what your consumers want.

Clearview360 offers patient experience and staff engagement survey tools built around the CLAS Standards.  The COA360 survey is a tool specifically designed for assessing your healthcare organization’s cultural competency and change readiness.  Periodic or ongoing assessment of cultural awareness is key to ensuring your organization is meeting and maintaining the CLAS Standards.

Let’s examine for a moment a very common challenge healthcare organizations face which is bridging the gap between staff’s familiarity with the healthcare process, and the general patient populations’ unfamiliarity with complex healthcare functions.

Often staff and providers become numb to the intricacies of the healthcare system which makes it difficult to relate to a patient who may be experiencing healthcare for the very first time.  This dissonance impacts health literacy which can be correlated to quality of care and health outcomes.  Well intended care happens when staff explain what is being done and why it is being done to patients – regardless of how trivial the task at hand may seem.  Page 20 of the tool kit lists a number of training resources that directly address improving health literacy in diverse patient populations.  The scope of the training materials span scenario-based role playing, communication strategies and competency assessments.