CHICAGO-Within the ongoing discussion on the need to reform the delivery of health care in the United States to better balance issues of cost, quality, and accessibility is an underlying issue that, if not sufficiently recognized, will undermine all efforts at reform.
Explore This IssueDecember 2008
This issue is the need to recognize the heterogeneity of the patients that the health care system serves, and the importance of addressing specific needs related to ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic conditions that directly affect whether or not a person receives adequate care.
In recognition of the importance of issues pertaining to diversity, a miniseminar focusing on the main issues related to diversity was offered for the first time at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). The AAO-HNS Diversity Committee also convened for the first time during the annual meeting. In addition, within the past year, the AAO-HNS leadership approved its first policy statement on diversity (www.entnet.org/Practice/Diversity.cfm ).
Key issues related to diversity presented during the miniseminar included cultural competency, health literacy, and health disparities.
All these issues can be related and are important for physicians to consider, as they have a significant impact on physician-patient communications, said Ronald B. Kuppersmith, MD, MBA, an otolaryngologist in College Station, TX, who moderated the session. Many otolaryngologists are aware of these issues, but they may not recognize the extent of the problem or how they can most effectively assess and overcome these problems in their personal practices.
According to Duane J. Taylor, MD, an otolaryngologist at Le Visage ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery LLC in Bethesda, MD, and Chair of the AAO-HNS Diversity Committee, cultural competency starts with the recognition that culture is a driving force for both physicians, who bring their own worldviews into the examination room, and patients, who bring their own fears and perceptions of life-and these views can be, and often are, vastly different.
It is important to realize that depending on our cultural/ethical background, we may all view the world through a slightly different lens and have a different perspective, he said. As a physician, it is important to remember empathy and, when possible, have more than one possible treatment plan.