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The benefits of providing culturally competent care


Being sensitive to the needs of patients from diverse backgrounds produces better health outcomes

Eastern and Western medicine are often considered opposing practices. Most people consider Eastern medicine to be preventive, holistic, and natural, whereas Western medicine is seen as reactive, diagnostic, and clinical. While there is some truth in these descriptions, the reality is that one approach is not better than the other. In fact, they work well together.

Various studies point to the benefits of combining Eastern and Western medicine practices. PubMed Central says acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine, is more effective when used with conventional medical treatments to treat lower back pain. Another study says blending Eastern medicine, Tuina, with routine treatments helps improve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

Multiethnic medical staff ©sittinan -stock.adobe.com

©sittinan -stock.adobe.com

Blending Eastern and Western medicine practices helps physicians deliver well-rounded patient care. It can also help ensure that patients from all cultural backgrounds, races, and ethnicities receive equal treatment. For years, we’ve seen many forms of discrimination in the medical field, which has diminished the quality of care and created barriers to building a cross-cultural community. Combining Eastern and Western medicine is a great way to establish culturally competent care, also called culturally sensitive care.

How to Provide Culturally Competent Care

Culturally competent health care facilities provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors and tailor their services according to patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs. Cultural competency means acknowledging the importance of culture, recognizing the potential impact of differences, and incorporating cross-cultural services to better meet patients’ needs.

Providing culturally competent care helps ensure that patients receive the best possible care and that their unique needs and preferences are respected. Here are some ways to provide it:

1. Offer cultural awareness training. Health care facilities may offer cultural awareness training to their employees to promote understanding of different cultures and how each one views the health care system.

2. Incorporate culture-specific attitudes and values into health promotion tools. This can help health care facilities effectively engage patients from diverse cultural backgrounds.

3. Expand linguistic competency. Health care facilities should ensure that patients with limited English proficiency can access clinical encounters, appointment desks, medical billing, written materials, and other medical services.

4. Provide interpreter services. Some hospitals provide interpreter services for patients whose primary language is American Sign Language.

5. Hire a diverse staff. When providing culturally competent care, it is important to have people on staff who represent all patient populations. This not only helps patients feel more comfortable in the health care setting but can improve the quality of care.

6. Include family in decision-making. Including family members in health care decision-making is a great way to meet the needs of minority populations. Many cultures rely heavily on the family unit and can feel helpless when health care providers make decisions for families instead of with them.

7. Widen provider expertise. Some health care facilities coordinate with traditional healers to make their services available for patients who feel more comfortable with traditional methods of healing.

8. Strategically place clinics near specific communities. Hospitals that take the time to think through clinic locations can help make health care services more accessible to populations lacking adequate public transportation.

9. Partner with community health workers. Using community health workers is a great way to provide additional assistance to patients from other cultures. Community health workers are trained to be a liaison between health care workers and


Health care facilities must take elements from each medicine to become culturally sensitive and deliver the full benefits of both treatments. There are advantages to both types of medical practice and leveraging their combined strength will foster a more just and welcoming health care environment where all patients feel safe.

Khaliq Siddiq, M.D. is chief medical officer at Clever Care Health Plan

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