“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” - Stephen Covey
The recent mid-term elections produced record numbers of diverse candidates and newly elected officials, including women, and people of various ages, ethnicities, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, and those who are differently abled. Diverse candidates reflect a diverse population.
Like the evolving political landscape, our nation’s diverse population continues to shape and influence businesses, including healthcare—both from a workforce and a customer service perspective.
Individual diversity-related patient issues are not new; for example, healthcare professionals have long grappled with how religious beliefs affect patient rights and medical decision-making, such as acceptability of blood transfusion or consent for autopsy. But now, a bigger-picture, organization-wide, and population health emphasis on diversity is emerging led by the C-suite and senior Human Resource executives.
Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.
While diversity and inclusion are often spoken of in the same breath, they are not synonymous. Inclusion complements diversity to create a culture of belonging and ensure a place and voice at the table. “Those of us in the field often like to say, Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance,” said Dorcas Lind, Assistant Vice President, and Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Montefiore Medical Center.
We asked Ms. Lind to share her insights and expertise around Diversity and Inclusion with us, which we summarize below:
HealthSearch Group [HSG]: Since it is impossible to do everything at once, what are some first steps that healthcare organizations can take to get started with a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy?
Dorcas Lind [DL]: First, leadership needs to ask why diversity and inclusion matters for their population. They need to develop a call-to-action and a roadmap that comes from their mission. At Montefiore, we’ve been focused on the role of diversity in healthcare for more than a century. Offering a diverse and inclusive environment is not only core to our identity, it is necessary to our goal of delivering exceptional, patient-centric care.
There are four key steps an organization can take to get started on the right track:
• Increase visibility and awareness of D&I efforts through storytelling, role model exposure, and celebrations of difference within the organization
• Put a structure and strategy in place to establish and communicate D&I goals and objectives
• Enhance accountability by establishing a governing body and council to embed D&I values and objectives into business plans
• Foster an inclusive culture by identifying training needs, and implementing initiatives that promote a sense of belonging and equity across the organization.
Before these steps, it is critical to assess how employees feel about diversity and inclusion through employee engagement or satisfaction surveys, or consider more qualitative methods to determine what employees want to see included in an inclusion strategy. At Montefiore we are implementing strategic focus group sessions that are tapping into all levels of the organization and helping to inform the D&I work we do today and into the future.
HSG: What are some of the considerations when organizations engage their employees about this subject?
DL: Any strategy must address the critical role D&I plays in delivering an optimal patient experience.
Additionally, D&I training curriculums should be designed to solve patient problems in an effective way. It helps us look at how we engage with people who are different than we are, both in terms of the teams we are members of, and the patients we serve.
In healthcare, diversity and inclusion training includes both employee and patient interactions. Inclusion strategy, policy and training can involve complex, ethical issues: Is it acceptable for a patient to refuse care from a caregiver of another race, religion, or gender? How can organizations bridge communication among disparate generations? How can we develop a true sense of cultural belonging? These are examples of important questions we are addressing in order to create effective programs and policies.
To help address bias in the workplace it is important to first acknowledge that we all have them but we need to sharpen and use skills to minimize or eliminate bias in our professional and patient-focused interactions. Our curriculum in this area aims to help associates recognize bias as a natural and normal function of the human mind, and identify when and how those factors influence everyday decision-making at the interpersonal and organizational level. At Montefiore we are focused on developing strategies for mitigating bias and individual action plans for practicing more conscious awareness.
THE IMPACT OF INVESTMENT
HSG: What effect does a diverse and inclusive workforce have on patient quality of care?
DL: There are real disparities in healthcare that lead to poorer outcomes. For example, African-American women over 40 years-of-age are more likely to die from breast cancer irrespective of their socioeconomic or educational status. From a quality of care perspective, there is a correlation with how a caregiver team structure is put together and decreased healthcare disparities.
There is evidence that diverse and inclusive healthcare delivery teams can help communicate with patients more effectively; patients have fewer missed medical visits, are better able to comply with treatment plans, and have better continuity of care. Organizations that prioritize and measure diversity and inclusion within their workplace have improved data collection and patient satisfaction scores.
We also take into consideration the configuration of our workforce caring for patients. With five generations in the workplace by 2020, it is important that we are supporting conversations across generations. We are thinking creatively about ways to pair older and younger employees for mentoring, or in some cases reverse mentoring opportunities. We also celebrate and honor the longevity of those who have been with the organization 25 years or longer. Initiatives like these focus on honoring and leveraging the power of generational differences to be a more inclusive organization.
HSG: With so many competing financial priorities, what are some of the compelling reasons for organizations to invest in diversity and inclusion?
DL: In addition to being the moral and right thing to do, the business case for diversity and inclusion is clear. A 2015 McKinseystudy showed that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity had a 35 percent greater likelihood for positive financial returns when compared with similar industry medians.
The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that by 2040 what we know as minority populations will become the majority population; however, no one single group will make up a majority. Increasing strategic focus on diversity and inclusion will lead to improvements of health and hospital systems to effectively address the healthcare needs of all Americans.
Furthermore, employees and patients alike are consumers and have choices. It is a competitive market advantage when employees and patients know that an organization cares about them across all aspects of their human dimensions.
HSG: We see an increase in companies seeking experienced individuals to lead and coordinate their overall Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. How can professionals gain more formal expertise and/or training this area?
DL: There are robust training opportunities in diversity and inclusion that are industry agnostic and healthcare specific. They include:
• American Hospital Association, Institute for Diversity and Health Equity
• Thomas Jefferson University, Healthcare Diversity Leadership
• Georgetown University, Executive Certificate in Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management
• Cornell University, ILR School, Diversity and Inclusion Professionals Certificate
• Jennifer Brown Consulting
• George Washington University, Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement
Dorcas Lind, is a Diversity &Inclusion (D&I) and healthcare communications professional with more than 25 years of experience managing national and global, multi-level staff; ensuring processes are put in place to create efficient, effective teams. After a 15-month consulting engagement, Dorcas joined Montefiore fulltime in June 2018 to build the first D&I offering for the medical center.
Through her consultancy, Diversity Health Communications, she achieved success on behalf of healthcare/pharmaceutical companies who have secured a place on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list over the past several years. In all of her healthcare roles Dorcas increased awareness of medical research opportunities and recruited patients through national advertising, physician referral outreach, patient appreciation programs, and multi-media/digital awareness campaigns.
In addition to client work, Dorcas served as communications strategist for the Ogilvy Diversity Council and worked to ensure an inclusive and diverse “workplace of the future” including planning and execution of the D&I strategic plan, D&I communications, agency wide employee network groups and events, mentoring programs such as the Women’s Leadership Series, the Multicultural Summer Internship program, and diversity recruiting initiatives.
Dorcas has consulted or held positions with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Johnson & Johnson, the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California at San Francisco, the San Francisco Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the Mayor’s Office of Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Services in New York City.
Dorcas obtained a M.P.H. from the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Public Health in behavioral science and health education. She earned a B.A. with honors in Health & Society at Brown University and has completed postgraduate professional training at the University of Chicago and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.