How Healthcare Facilities Can Improve Patient Care with DEI Practices

DEI stands for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” When asked, most hospital or healthcare facility administrators would claim that they believe in all of these terms and do their very best to implement them in their services, policies, and offerings.

Say you will about the healthcare system, the intentions of the people working in it are typically good. It’s the execution that often leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not exactly the hospital’s fault. Care is expensive and not accessible to everyone.

Resources are limited. Demographics are diverse. The people working in hospitals most likely want to help everyone to the very best of their ability, regardless of the patients’ racial, sexual, spiritual, or gender identity. Unfortunately, it is often a struggle for care providers to fully identify with people who do not share their background. DEI practices can help bridge cultural barriers, making it much easier for everyone to receive high-quality care.

In this article, we take a look at how DEI practices can improve patient care.

How are DEI Practices Defined?

Organizations that wish to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion often form what is called a DEI Board. The DEI board will typically consist of independent stakeholders. In other words, people who have a reason to care about what the organization does without necessarily being an active participant in it.

A school district DEI board may consist of parents or wider community members. A business DEI board might consist of people who use products or services similar to what the brand produces. A hospital DEI board will most likely consist of community members who are serviced by the healthcare facility.

Ideally, the board will have members from a wide range of different backgrounds and specialties. The board may review the healthcare organization’s policies, employment demographics, and public-facing communications to look for ways to fine-tune operations. The ultimate goal is not only to make minorities more comfortable receiving healthcare services but also to improve patient outcomes for everyone using the hospital.

Business organizations with well-implemented DEI boards generally experience higher profit margins than those who do not. The reason is simple: the people who use products and services— any products and services— are diverse.

It simply is not possible to effectively reach everyone without taking differences in background into consideration. Below, we take a look at what issues hospitals are facing, and how DEI boards can help.

The Problem

In the United States, black mothers are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth than white parents. While this statistic is jarring and justifiably cause for further investigation, it’s not fair to say that racism is the sole or even primary culprit of racial disparities in healthcare.

Black mothers experience early prenatal care at a rate of around 8% in certain parts of the country, compared to 40% for white mothers. This can have an enormous impact on the ultimate patient outcomes because it is during the first trimester that many of the biggest risk factors are identified and addressed.

Still, this isn’t a clear or complete explanation of the major deficiency in care outcomes. Minority healthcare patients frequently struggle to effectively communicate and collaborate with their healthcare providers.

It’s not that doctors and nurses don’t want to help minority patients. It’s that they sometimes struggle to effectively connect with patients who come from backgrounds different than their own.

This owes largely to the fact that healthcare is largely a racially monolithic employment sector. Most healthcare workers are white which can lead to communication complications with serious ramifications.

Cultural barriers can:

  • Make it difficult for patients to connect with their care providers: Patients who trust their care providers often achieve better outcomes. This owes both to the fact that they generally have a more optimistic outlook and because they are more comfortable disclosing information that can improve and aid in their treatment.
  • Keep patients from being taken seriously: Many minority patients report having a very hard time getting doctors and nurses to take their complaints seriously. Because this is a subjective consideration, it’s harder to quantify. However, it is supported by data indicating poorer outcomes for minority patients. Often, preventable complications escalate because they are ignored during the stages when the symptoms could have been more easily addressed.

Most doctors and nurses want to do right by all of their patients. DEI boards can help create hospital policies and training protocols that bridge care gaps.

DEI Boards Review Hiring Policies and Procedures

One of the best ways to service a diverse population is to employ a diverse workforce. Unfortunately, hospitals tend to consist primarily of white doctors and registered nurses which can be alienating for patients from different backgrounds. It can also be discouraging for job seekers of different backgrounds.

Many people feel naturally uncomfortable being the only person of their background in a work environment. A DEI board can review hiring policies and external communications to look for factors that might be negatively influencing employment diversity. Sometimes the fixes are simple. Is the language used on the healthcare facility’s website entirely inclusive?

Other times, a more intensive and corrective approach will need to be taken to refine policies and procedures.

DEI Boards Inspire Confidence

While the changes that a DEI board makes may take a while to unfold, there may be immediate benefits just to forming one. Organizations with DEI boards indicate to potential employees and the larger community that diversity, equity, and inclusion are being taken seriously.

This can help inspire confidence, which will subsequently help with hiring and improving patient outcomes.


It’s important to understand that DEI practices are not a short-term fix. They aren’t items to check off a to-do list. They represent a permanent commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. For them to be effectively leveraged in the context of improving patient outcomes, DEI considerations must be constantly reviewed and implemented.