Do Patients Appreciate If Healthcare Providers Are Culturally Competent?

To analyze whether cultural competence impacts patients’ satisfaction in healthcare, let’s first define what the term means. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), a healthcare system is culturally competent. When the system “acknowledges the importance of culture, incorporates cross-cultural relations assessment, recognizes the potential impact of cultural differences, and adapts services to meet culturally unique needs.” Healthcare aims to address ethnic, economic, racial, and social inequalities while delivering the service. Due to the sensitive nature of the healthcare industry, the need for it to be culturally competent is immense, especially during moments of emergency rushing for medical aid. A barrier due to language or culture at that moment can impact the outcome of a healthcare system. Even though the intentions may be pure, a slight misunderstanding can prove fatal and result in lawsuits.

What does it take to be culturally competent?

Being culturally competent mainly involves respect, empathy, and curiosity, while understanding the beliefs, history, and practices of a particular group can be the basis for understanding this. The important thing here is to avoid stereotyping, have balanced knowledge to accommodate diversity and resources such as interpreters, etc. Here’s the list of 4 critical goals for a healthcare provider to become culturally competent:

  • Being self-aware: This is about being mindful of your cultural values, beliefs, and practices. How do they impact your interactions? 
  • Accepting cultural differences: This means valuing differences and accepting diversity.
  • To Assessing Cultural knowledge: Understanding that our knowledge about other cultures is shaped by interacting with others around us.
  • Adaptability: This refers to a person/institution’s ability to adapt to change and using different approaches at the same time to deal with patients from diverse backgrounds. 

Do Patients Appreciate Culturally Competent Healthcare providers? 

Cultural Competence in Health Care
This article from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine shows the importance of
cultural competence in healthcare by describing the improved experiences of patients with service providers for being culturally competent. 

Being culturally competent can help keep patients safer due to enhanced communication, enabling healthcare providers to collect medical information more accurately. Patients feel more confident while communicating, and healthcare providers can build trust by removing misunderstandings. Studies on the subject have shown that lacking cultural competence can lead to preventable mistakes and unwanted events. For instance, a study was conducted to examine patient safety in US hospitals. It concluded that patients lacking proficiency in the English language were more likely to experience adverse safety events during hospitalization than those fluent in the English language. Also, the events experienced by such patients happen to be more severe as well. 

The results of a study published in the Human Kinetics Journal as a critically appraised topic. (CAT) also showed that the cultural competence of professionals in the healthcare system positively impacted the satisfaction and experiences of patients. Furthermore, the study showed that the more cultural competence displayed by a healthcare professional, the more positively it impacted the experiences of a patient. 

Four of the five articles analyzed in the study described the variety of benefits for patients while conversing with culturally competent staff. The first benefit was the higher levels of satisfaction among patients with culturally competent staff. The second benefit was that patients showed higher levels of openness and were more trusting of the staff while engaging with culturally competent professionals. Another benefit was that patients were more likely to take their advice and follow the prescribed schedule when the healthcare staff got perceived as culturally competent. Moreover, having staff who could speak the same language as that of a patient resulted in higher levels of patient satisfaction. Finally, one of the five articles concluded that dealing with culturally incompetent staff resulted in adverse effects or low patient satisfaction. 

The results of this CAT concluded that the cultural competence of healthcare professionals and service providers has an impact on patient satisfaction. The more culturally competent a service provider is perceived, the higher the satisfaction levels of the patient. The patient showed higher levels of engagement with the service provider and was more willing to comply with treatment if the service provider gets perceived as culturally competent. 

Cultural Competence and Patient Safety:

Patient safety, in some cases, gets impacted by disparities in healthcare. A recent study looking at hospitals found that patients with limited English proficiency were more likely to be harmed than those fluent in the English language. The study’s findings include pediatric populations and found that Latino children in hospitals are more likely than white children to experience adverse events. 

Such safety-related events could arise from the service provider’s inability to understand cultural differences, overcome language barriers, diagnostic errors, negative responses to medication, infections, adverse birth outcomes, and no proper adherence to the service provider’s recommendations. For example, not understanding the culture that an Asian woman would only consent to something when a male member of the family is around; this might lead to a delay in obtaining the consent. With a growing diverse population across the states and thus equally diverse patients, it is high for service providers to consider recruiting diverse staff for a better patient experience. 


From the findings of the above studies, it can be concluded that culturally competent staff positively affects the experience and satisfaction level of patients. With the increase in population and influx of immigrants, embracing diversity in their healthcare system will be critical for service providers. The diverse staff makes it easier for suppliers, patients, and other stakeholders to build a positive relationship with an organization. An environment surrounded by diversity fosters trust, credibility, and mutual friendship and motivates employees who deliver excellent service to patients. Thus, healthcare systems who wish to thrive, not just survive in today’s competitive world. But they must maintain a culturally competent staff if needed, speak with patients in their language, and deliver the highest quality of service while respecting cultural differences.

Written by Dushyant Gandotra

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