Cultural Competency: Improving the Health Care Experience for Everyone

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — July 1, 2021 — 3 min read
It’s important for providers to recognize cultural differences. Culturally competent providers improve members’ health care experiences and lead to better treatment.
July is National Minority Mental Health Month, so let's talk cultural competency. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), it means providers realize their own bias and work to overcome it. They treat all patients the same, no matter their background. Cultural competency reduces racial and ethnic health care disparities.

United Healthcare describes other cultural competency benefits:
  • Patients respond better when their cultural background is considered. This includes speaking in their own language.
  • Communication, diagnosis, and treatment can improve.
The overall quality of care for diverse member populations improves.

Different Cultures Have Different Understandings of Mental Health

Ethnic minorities in the U.S. are less likely to seek mental health treatment. It’s also common for them to delay treatment until symptoms are severe. Many minorities don't believe mental illnesses are medical illnesses. They often view seeking help as a sign of weakness.

Some examples of cultural differences include:
  • Black Americans tend to turn to religion before seeking mental health treatment.
  • Many Asian Americans prefer to avoid negative feelings rather than express them.
  • Muslim women often prefer a woman physician because of religious modesty concerns.
Many minorities have reported bad clinical experiences. Poor treatment will make them less likely to get help. Improving cultural competency will encourage more health care visits.

For Providers: How to Practice Cultural Competency

It starts with recognizing your own worldview. Providers should assess how their perceptions differ from others. Acknowledge that those differences make people unique. Then, treat patients as individuals, rather than generalizing them.

Here are recommendations from the AHA for health care organizations:
  • Collect race, ethnicity, and language preference data
  • Identify and report disparities
  • Provide culturally and linguistically competent care
  • Develop culturally competent disease management programs
  • Increase diversity and minority workforce pipelines
  • Involve the community
  • Make cultural competency an institutional priority

For Members: Find the Right Provider

You may be different from your provider. But your differences shouldn’t be ignored. Here’s how to make sure your provider is culturally competent. Be as picky as possible.

Members can use the provider search on our website to find the right provider. This allows you to search for a provider who speaks your language.

To complete the search:
  • Click “Find a provider” under quick links on the Home page
  • Click Provider Agencies or Provider Names
  • Use the filters to find a provider who fits your needs
If you have other requirements or questions, call their office. It is best to ask questions prior to scheduling an appointment.

Find a provider here.

Questions to Ask Before Settling on a Provider

Once you choose a provider to start with, you can ask them questions. Make sure they understand your needs before starting treatment.

Some questions to ask:
  • Do you speak my language?
  • Do you have experience treating people of my ethnicity?
  • Do you understand how my ethnic needs differ from others?
  • Do you feel comfortable treating someone of my ethnicity?
  • How much cultural competency training do you have?
  • Have you been trained on how prejudice can impact mental health?
When dealing with mental health, ethnicity has an impact. You should feel open to share how being a minority has impacted you.

Get Trained on Culturally Competent Mental Health

Use these webinars to continue learning about cultural competency:
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