The Significance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Healthcare

DEI initiatives require time, effort, and equipment—and the benefits are well worth it.

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What Is DEI?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion, collectively known by the acronym DEI, is a set of policies or practices that promote the full participation and fair treatment of all people, including populations that historically have been underrepresented or subject to discrimination. Many organizations have made efforts to hire diverse employees, and many more now have DEI initiatives, DEI task forces, or staff positions focused on DEI. When organizations make DEI a priority, they can build a workforce that represents the population.

Why Is DEI in Healthcare Important?

These efforts have important benefits for all organizations, but the stakes are higher for healthcare organizations.

  • Black and Hispanic patients report a higher rate of negative healthcare experiences. For instance, Black and Hispanic patients were more likely than white patients to report that their healthcare provider refused to order a test the patient felt they needed.1
  • Black and Hispanic patients report more difficulty finding a doctor of their race. A patient can feel more comfortable sharing personal information with a doctor who has the same background as they do.1
  • People of color have overall worse physical health than white people. People of color experience higher rates of infant mortality and chronic conditions.2
  • LGBTQ+ individuals often encounter barriers to healthcare. As a result, they can experience worse health outcomes.3
  • Health disparities are costly. Eliminating racial disparities in health would erase $93 billion in excess medical care costs.4

What Are the Benefits of DEI in Healthcare?

DEI efforts help to address these inequities in healthcare and patient outcomes. In fact, DEI leads to improved patient care. An umbrella review of healthcare studies showed that in general, patient outcomes improved when diverse teams provided care. Improved team communication, risk assessment, and innovation are additional benefits of diverse teams. Diverse organizations also performed better financially.5 Additionally, DEI improves employee retention. A Press Ganey survey revealed that employees are more likely to stay at an organization they feel values a diverse workforce.6 Successful healthcare organizations value diversity, equity, and inclusion. The results are healthier patients, happier healthcare providers, and profitable organizations.

A critical step in improving healthcare equity in your organization is to address implicit bias. Implicit biases are judgments we unconsciously hold about groups or people. Because implicit bias is unconscious, it can be difficult to uncover and mitigate. Walden University’s School of Lifelong Learning offers individual courses online, including the micro-course Addressing Implicit Bias in Healthcare, which can help you conduct an audit for implicit bias and create an action plan to address it. If you need to understand implicit bias and how it can impact your organization’s ability to deliver quality healthcare, this micro-course can help. Advance your organization’s health equity efforts by learning the skills you need to effectively address implicit bias.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online courses for credit, professional development courses, and tailored employer training programs through its School of Lifelong Learning. Degree seekers may wish to explore Walden’s suite of online degree programs, offered at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Learn new skills in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.