Physicians have one major challenge to tackle with every patient they treat – cultural diversity. Every patient comes from a different background and will expect culturally-appropriate treatment from a doctor. Your job is to try and understand your patients’ cultural differences and deliver patient-centric services. Your relationship to your patient relies on taking that extra step to understand where they’re coming from.
Communicate efficiently, respect your patients’ cultural values and beliefs, and you’ll build a healthy trust-based relationship with them. This will lead to better health outcomes in the end. Here at Primary Medical Care Center, we offer patient-centric care first and foremost, and below we’ll talk about the strategies we implement to achieve this.
Cultivate Cultural Awareness When Making Decisions
A patient’s cultural background will influence their behavior, beliefs, attitude toward doctors and the medical system, and the decisions they make. Some cultures may look down on some treatments or might have different perceptions on decision-making regarding medical situations. Your job is to acknowledge these differences, understand them, and act sensibly around them.
Build a rapport with your patients to understand them better. After all, their cultural beliefs and values will influence their preference for treatment options. Some cultures may impose dietary restrictions, other might prefer natural remedies vs. medication, and so on. Prioritize these differences when making decisions for your patients. Understand their reasons for preferring some things and disliking others, and integrate this into the decision-making process!
Communication Is Key in a Multicultural Work Background
The way you communicate with patients from different cultural backgrounds will have to change. Try not to use medical jargon or talk down to your patients. Use simple language that’s easy to understand even for a non-native English speaker. Use active listening and non-verbal body language to let your patient know you’re listening to them. Before you get to understand their preferences and expectations, act in a sensible manner.
If a patient prefers a less direct communication method, you should be adaptive and shift your approach. If a patient does not speak English, you should employ an interpreter to provide an effective communication channel. Language barriers should not pose an issue in today’s medical industry, yet they do. Interpretation services should be accessible to all primary care providers to offer to their patients.
However, one thing to remember is that when using an interpreter, don’t stop addressing the patient directly. The interpreter is there to translate but they’re not the patient. So, don’t address them directly to ask the patient a question. Maintain eye contact with the patient and talk to them directly. Doing otherwise may estrange the patient and create an obstacle in communication.
Cultural Knowledge Makes You More Competent at Your Job
Primary care providers will have to keep learning about different cultures and adapt their healthcare practices to reflect those differences when treating patients. This could mean understanding the traditions, religious practices, healing practices, dietary preferences, and other structures that could help your patient’s decision-making. Ask your patient about their cultural background to understand where they’re coming from.
The lack of cultural awareness is not to be faulted. Only the refusal to learn more about a patient’s cultural background is at fault. At times, medical providers are afraid of asking their patients about their cultural differences because they don’t want to be rude. However, this is key to providing patient-centric culturally-appropriate services to them.
The US has a very diverse healthcare landscape with patients from a wide number of cultural backgrounds. As a physician, your job is to acknowledge, understand, and respect all those backgrounds. Be open to communication and strive to improve your patient’s health status through any means necessary. Empower your patients’ decision-making through effective communication and you’ll have better health outcomes.