The U.S. faces great changes in the 21st century. High levels of immigration from Asia, Central, and South America have dramatically shifted U.S. demographics. According to the U.S. Census survey, the U.S. may be a majority non-White nation by as early as 2043. By 2060, the relative percentage of non-Hispanic Whites in the population is expected to decrease to just 43% from 63% in 2010, whereas the relative percentage of Hispanics will nearly double, from 17% in 2010 to a predicted 32% (1). Despite the rapidly growing minority populations within the U.S., there remain relatively few minority healthcare providers, such as nurses, physicians, and technicians. For example, as of 2013, 70% of physicians identified as White, while only 6.4% identified as Hispanic and 5.9% as African American (2).
The lack of diverse and culturally competent healthcare providers may adversely impact the efficacy and frequency with which this care is administered. A patient’s language and culture dictate how they express and explain their symptoms, as well as the degree to which they are comfortable seeking medical assistance. Patients and providers who understand one another’s core principles – especially with regards to medicine – and can communicate effectively have a better chance of achieving a better patient outcome (3). When asked the question, “do you think that African American and Hispanic patients receive a lower quality of care, the same quality of care, or a better quality of care than White patients?”, A majority of African American patients answered lower, along with around 40% of Hispanic patients (4). Even 25% of White patients felt that they received a higher quality of care than their minority counterparts (4). Perhaps even more convincingly, as early as 2005, over 75% of physicians felt that minorities were receiving a lower level of care than White patients, and that figure has been steadily rising (4). This is an alarming trend. While these numbers do not necessarily indicate a systemic discrimination within the healthcare industry, it may show a mistrust and lack of communication between minority patients and the mostly White male dominated healthcare industry.
This mistrust and miscommunication can manifest itself in other ways, such as insurance coverage. While Hispanic people make up a mere 17% of the U.S. population, they represent 33% of all uninsured Americans (4). Lack of insurance coverage, borne of distrust for a largely White-dominated medical system only makes access to adequate care more difficult for minorities. While the solutions to such endemic issues cannot be solved overnight, the first steps can be taken to rebuild trust between the healthcare industry and minorities, beginning with making provider diversity a priority to bridge the many cultural gaps spanning this great melting pot of a nation.
On June 22, 2016, the Center for Healthcare Innovation will be further exploring these issues at the 6th annual Diversity, Inclusion & Life Sciences Symposium, which is the leading annual, collaborative event for life sciences and healthcare executives, physicians, HR professionals, clinical trial professionals and patients, entrepreneurs, patient groups, researchers, academics, and diversity and inclusion advocates to discuss diversity and inclusion in healthcare. Please visit chisite.org/education/diversity-symposium/ for more information.
- U.S. Population Projections: 2012-2060 | George Washington University https://www.gwu.edu/~forcpgm/Ortman.pdf
- Diversity in the Physician Workforce: Facts and Figures 2014 | AAMC http://aamcdiversityfactsandfigures.org/section-ii-current-status-of-us-physician-workforce/#fig16
- Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions | Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Workforce, pgs. 13-27 http://health-equity.pitt.edu/40/1/Sullivan_Final_Report_000.pdf
- Eliminating Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare: What are the Options? | The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation http://kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/eliminating-racialethnic-disparities-in-health-care-what/