Q&A: The Importance of Having Diverse Providers That Reflect Patient Populations

By 2044, more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a minority group, according to recent census data. By 2060, nearly one in five of the nation’s total population is projected to be foreign born.

In the medical community, it’s important to reflect that changing demographic landscape.

At the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC), that idea especially rings true. Patient demographics from 2015 include:

  • Patients represent at least 12 different racial/ethnic groups, including: 21% Latin/Central/South America,  20% Somalian, 18% European American, 16% African American, 12% Asian, 4% American Indian
  • More than 40% of patients have very limited English knowledge
  • 89% of patients have Medicaid, Medicare or are uninsured

In addition, more than 50 percent of CUHCC’s staff are immigrants, refugees or are people of color, and services are provided in six languages.

Those services helped Kim Tran’s family get on their feet when they came to the U.S. from Vietnam. Tran, Pharm.D., received all of her medical care from CUHCC and it inspired her to pursue a health career. She completed a pharmacy rotation with the College of Pharmacy at CUHCC, and now she has returned as a provider.

““What amazed me was that people stopped and listened and cared about my family’s needs,” Tran said about CUHCC in a recent Star Tribune story. “That feeling that I am heard and cared for — I want to give that to my patients.”

Read the full story here.

Health Talk spoke with spoke with Roli Dwivedi, M.D., Medical Director at CUHCC, to learn more about the importance of having diverse care providers.

Health Talk: How do we benefit from having diverse care providers?

Roli Dwivedi: Having diverse groups of front desk staff, health care providers and on-site interpreters for different languages helps recent immigrants and refugee patients have a sense of home, belonging and comfort.

It also helps create therapeutic relationships by developing trust and engaging patients to achieve better/optimal health.  It’s a good educational environment for future health care providers.

HT: How great is the need for primary care physicians who come from different backgrounds?

RD: There is huge shortage of primary care providers in general. Increasing the number of diverse care providers in a primary care setting is even more important in helping to break cultural gaps.

HT: How does cultural competency play a role in providing quality care?

RD: Culturally competent care helps in bridging the gap between patient and provider understanding of disease, definition of optimal health in different cultures and it helps both providers and patients in developing a patient-centered care plan, which ultimately improves patient satisfaction.

HT: How does this apply at CUHCC?

RD: At CUHCC, services are very well supported by our robust medical and psychosocial care-coordination services which help our patients not only when they are in the clinic but also beyond the walls of clinic while they are trying to learn the system of medicine in a different country. For example, mental health problems are very sensitive and complex with different stigmas in different cultures.  As our staff and providers understand these barriers, we are able to create and craft different care delivery models for our patients. We also have very active, engaged, diverse and robust patient advisory that helps in advising and crafting our care delivery model from time-to-time based on our patients’ needs.