When communicating healthcare information, a culture sensitive approach is a must. The goal of the culture sensitive approach is to understand and appropriately use a patient’s culture when communicating with him or her.
An individual’s culture is determined by his or her upbringing, values, and history. Additionally, culture is influenced by his or her beliefs, lifestyle, hobbies, education, etc. A patient’s history is also a crucial component in establishing a patient’s culture and important for health literacy.
Clinicians, regardless of specialties, must be mindful that their patients’ cultures may be very different than those of the medical professional. A patient’s culture cannot be changed; it must be recognized, assessed, and understood. When culturally insensitive language is used a tension and imbalance in relationship is caused.
When going through medical requirements, an understanding of the culture of your provider/specialist may prove to be critical. Depending on your situation, perhaps even more important than knowing the specific requirements, is knowing the quality care you are expecting when taking out health insurance.
The socialization, orientation, communication and retention of the health care providers become an important part of your health insurance process.
Understanding the culture can help you make informed decisions and structure your communication with your healthcare provider. Often, they may require you to submit the same information to both your provider and your insurance company.
Make sure your approach is culturally sensitive. Before you ever speak with a provider, ask questions. Ask what time it is and whether you need any documentation before you can provide the information. You don’t want to “annoy” the provider by making a fuss. Just be sure to respect the practice and the person. Some options are:
Ask for a referral to a social worker or peer-support worker. These specialists can help you understand the specifics of their culture, as well as offer specific resources, help and connections you may need to make it through medical school. Ask what others have experienced with treatment issues in a similar situation and how you can apply what you learn.
Regardless of their profession, all health professionals must be able to communicate information related to their work to their colleagues in a way that relates to their healthcare profession and cultural context. If someone doesn’t grasp what you mean, then you have to explain it. Many also say that a cultural approach to the best practices of a patient and family practice makes the most sense for those who are using modern medicine.
Some doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals have become so immersed in their use of “patient centered” communication strategies that their own culture, attitudes, and awareness are not part of the equation.
One of the problems that arises in this situation is that any professional, especially a physician, is expected to become a professional in order to become “good” and therefore is not afforded the luxury of re-adjusting their style based on an increase in knowledge and/or exposure to more diverse populations of patients. In this way, “culture sensitive communication” can quickly become highly stigmatized and even illegal. This brings to light the significant need for a culture sensitive approach in healthcare professions and health literacy.
Overall, medical education in the U.S. is under pressure and doesn’t have the tools to offer the good care it should. Doctors need to take a step back from the cutesy advice that is given to them and start delivering guidance that can benefit both the patient and the doctor.
It is critical that every opportunity is used to communicate the science of healthcare, the importance of the patient in the process and what can be done to better care for people.