Improved healthcare requires re-examining long-held notions
Re-examining long-held notions is one path to improve healthcare
We make assumptions. Most times these assumptions are based on experiences in our lives from which we learn. Many times these assumptions can be helpful because they structure our world in meaningful ways. But what happens when assumptions hinder our world? And when that occurs, how do we attack those harmful underlying assumptions so we can shape our environment in a positive way?
Last year, I had the great honor of accepting the chairman-elect position at the American College of Healthcare Executives, and as I was walking through the lobby of the hotel with my husband, I ran into an acquaintance. He began to make introductions to a colleague I hadn’t met, indicating that he’d like to introduce him to the new chairman-elect. Before he could finish, however, his colleague extended his hand and congratulated my husband, assuming he had been named to the post.
It was a small matter and an honest mistake. The colleague turned out to be a thoughtful person who instantly recognized that his assumption had structured a reality that led him to a faulty conclusion.
Yet, we all carry these assumptions with us throughout our lives. They can become hardwired and even the most insightful must strive to fight through them to encounter truth. In essence, that is the core of cultural competence.
This is why the ACHE’S commitment to diversity is so critically important. The ACHE believes that it has a responsibility to further diversity within the organization and the healthcare management field. We embrace diversity because we believe it is an ethical and business imperative that can improve an organization’s quality and its services. This commitment is reflected in the ACHE’S values, noting that we advocate inclusion and embrace the differences of those with whom we work and the communities we serve.
The ACHE promotes diversity in its leaders, affiliates and staff because diverse participation can serve as a catalyst for improved decisionmaking and increased productivity, as well as provide a competitive advantage. In addition to being the right thing to do, diversity contributes to an organization’s success
We must continually ask ourselves and our colleagues if our assumptions are shaping an accurate view of our world.
and improves the overall patient experience.
Because we believe that diversity is such an important topic, the ACHE has developed specific policy statements that can be found on its website at ache.org. The ACHE’S broader Statement on Diversity outlines efforts to promote diversity within the ACHE and within the healthcare management field as a whole. Additional resources, such as the Diversity and Cultural Proficiency Assessment Tool for Leaders, also are available online.
Organizations must work to foster an inclusive environment that recognizes the contributions of and supports advancement for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability, because an inclusive environment can enhance the quality of healthcare, improve hospital-community relations and positively affect the health status of society.
The ACHE promotes the continuing development of diverse leaders by encouraging ongoing learning opportunities through programs such as the Albert W. Dent Scholarship, given in honor of the first African-american fellow of the ACHE, postgraduate administrative fellowships, and Executive Program and Senior Executive Program scholarships.
The ACHE also is a founding member of the Institute for Diversity in Health Management and supports its work. Professional healthcare organizations represent another mechanism to foster leadership opportunities, and the ACHE has strong working relation- ships with the Asian Health Care Leaders Association, National Association of Health Services Executives and National Forum for Latino Healthcare Executives.
In collaboration with other national organizations, the ACHE supports the Equity of Care initiative, a nationwide call to action that seeks to eliminate healthcare disparities and improve quality of care for all patients.
We as leaders also need to direct more attention to the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. If we are to truly embrace the concept of cultural competence, we must develop inclusionary steps for this population as well. As a starting point, the Joint Commission has already issued important patient-centered care guidelines, covering such critical areas as visitation rights.
As our industry undergoes extraordinary transformation, it is imperative that we use this as an opportunity to further our goals around cultural competency and diversity. This will be an important foundation for the ACHE’S efforts in the future.
To effectively manage the care we provide to the patients we serve, we must understand that there is far more to advancing quality than new technology and innovative interventions. Without a doubt, they are critically important. But no surgical robot, no breakthrough in genomic sequencing will ever guarantee the comfort we extend to the patients we serve more thoroughly than a basic understanding of human need.
We must continue to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to re-examine our longstanding notions. We must continually ask if they are helping to shape an accurate view of our world—and if not, we must be prepared to reconsider them as we advance healthcare to the next level of competence.
Gayle Capozzalo is chairwoman of the American College of Healthcare Executives
and executive vice president of strategy and system development at
Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health System.