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How Accessible CME Supports Much Needed Diversity in Healthcare

By March 18, 2024CME Activities

American Medical Association Past President Alan Nelson, MD shared a sobering analysis of healthcare in his 2002 briefing of the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC. Later that year, his words were published as a guest editorial in the Journal of the National Medical Association. He highlighted two important insights from his work that year, first noting that “Racial and ethnic disparities in health care exist even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” He later states, “Bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and clinical uncertainty on the part of health care providers may contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in health care.”

More than two decades later, the industry still fails to provide equitable healthcare for patients of color in many situations. Clearly, diversity and inclusion must be prioritized. It is also worth considering that race is just one demographic factor that can negatively impact care and outcomes. The industry must also consider how best to care for patients with varying:

  • Socioeconomic statuses
  • Cultures
  • Languages
  • Immigration statuses
  • Disabilities
  • Sexualities
  • Gender identities
  • Faiths

A Diverse, Culturally Competent Workforce

Like most concerns with the healthcare industry, solutions do not lie only with individual providers. However, these providers are the face of healthcare for their patients, who are increasingly diverse and benefit from diverse, culturally competent physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, etc.

Across the US, “practitioners who are from minority racial and ethnic groups are much more likely to work in underserved communities than their white counterparts.” And, diverse healthcare professionals increase patient acceptance of treatment. Better patient-provider relationships and improved patient satisfaction are also documented benefits of a healthcare workforce that more closely mirrors the population it serves. Together, these factors contribute to better healthcare outcomes for diverse patient populations.

The cultural competency of providers who do not share the same demographics as their patients has also “been shown to improve the quality of health care received by racial/ethnic minority groups” and is part of a comprehensive strategy for treating increasingly diverse patients.

Accessible Education for Future and Current Providers

Creating a diverse, culturally competent workforce begins long before medical school and residency. Introducing kids from a wide variety of backgrounds to medicine as a career through programs like the AMA’s Doctors Back to School™ Day is just the beginning. Building diverse medical school cohorts not only trains diverse practitioners but “diversity in education environments… improves [health professionals’] ability to treat patients from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds.”

Cultural competency should be a focus of training the doctors, advanced practice providers, and other healthcare professionals of both today and tomorrow. Continuing education curricula should be accessible to diverse providers working in various settings. Accessible CME helps all types of practitioners continue their education in ways that positively impact their patients. CME providers can further the work of medical associations, schools, hospitals, and practitioners with continuing education that:

  • Covers the health issues affecting specific patient populations
  • Is accessible to providers with disabilities
  • Serves a variety of learning styles
  • Is both convenient and affordable

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