New Research: The Importance of Cultural Diversity in Healthcare Leadership

Guest post by Jim Gauss and Howard Jessamy

New Research: The Importance of Cultural Diversity in Healthcare Leadership

…first in a series of findings from Witt/Kieffer’s 2011 national survey report Building the Business case. Healthcare Diversity Leadership.

There’s no question about it. Whatever happens in Washington, health reform this year will require successful organizations to provide more value-based care to patients and deliver higher quality clinical outcomes. The stakes are high for serving patients well. 

But consider this: a 2011 report from the Brookings Institute shows that minorities account for 98 percent of the population growth in large metro areas during the last decade. Never has it been more important for your organization to embrace cultural competency as you roll out new services and consider effective ways to connect with your patients.

What is the state of cultural diversity in healthcare leadership today?  Witt/Kieffer examined the benefits, barriers, solutions, and best practices as reported by 470 respondents in a  2011 national survey report Building the Business case. Healthcare Diversity Leadership. 

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents firmly believe that diverse leadership leads to measurable business benefits. As an east coast Hispanic CEO pointed out, “We are in an incredibly diverse area. As a Hispanic who grew up in a working class family, I have a connection to the community I serve, and many of my staff are from that background as well. This gives me ‘street cred’ with my staff and patient base.” 

A few key findings:

  • Cultural differences support successful decision-making (65 percent of CEOs agree).  “Diversity thinking opens up a world of possibilities, richer discussions, and more creative results,” explains one African American COO.
  •  Diversity recruiting enables the organization to reach its strategic goals. “Cultural competence and diversity drive quality. It’s good business,” notes the CEO of a West Coast children’s hospital. 
  • Diverse leadership supports positive clinical outcomes. “It ensures you know the cultural differences to provide culture and competent care to patients,” adds a Caucasian HR executive.

In short, advancing cultural diversity in healthcare this year will lead to better outcomes, greater efficiency, and higher satisfaction among your patients and physicians. It will enhance your organization’s public image and reputation.

The problem: While respondents believe in the business benefits of diversity leadership, they—64 percent of Caucasian and 80 percent of African American respondents—don’t feel that organizations are fully embracing cultural diversity in healthcare leadership and effectively closing the gap.

Why not? Watch soon for “Advancing Leadership Diversity: What Gets in the Way?,” second in Witt/Kieffer’s 2012 blog series on findings from the survey.

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