When a patient steps into a medical facility for testing or treatment, they want to see faces that look like theirs.
Patients want to find doctors, nurses, and others in the healthcare profession that share their same cultures, races, abilities, sexual orientations, or thought processes. When they are able to connect with their medical provider, they often get the best care and walk away satisfied. However, if the environment does not make them feel like they belong, patients may get uncomfortable, fail to discuss all of their medical concerns, and not follow up with treatment.1
This is especially important in radiology, where patients may be nervous about the results. To best serve patients, hospitals, medical centers, labs, and physicians’ offices need to continue to strive for radiology diversity. Without it, delivery of care suffers.
Prioritizing radiology diversity may lead to better communications, greater patient satisfaction, and fewer negative health results.
Diversity refers to the similarities and differences among individuals based on their social identities. The most common social identities include gender, race, religion, nationality, social class, age, sexual orientation, and ability status. All identities matter because they create pecking orders, leaving those that fall in the dominant group with more power and influence than those in the non-dominant group. In industries, like healthcare, the dynamics of social identity influence policies, procedures, and practices, which may result in inequities and health disparities. (1, 3, 4, 5)
Hospitals and healthcare centers have made great strides to improve access for women and underrepresented races in the medical community. However, there is still a need to focus on diversifying based on sexual orientation, gender identification, religion, geography, age, disability, veteran status, or socioeconomic status.
Additionally, radiology diversity matters more now than ever because demographics are changing and with those changes come great implications. For example, the black population is expected to double in the United States, and the Asian and Hispanic populations are expected to triple by 2050.2 By that year, white people will become the population’s minority. If institutions do not make moves to handle these changes, it could have a dramatically negative impact on healthcare. The results may be an uptick in negative healthcare outcomes, new health epidemics, and a loss of patients.
Given this information, the ultimate goal should be to provide better healthcare access to traditionally underrepresented groups.
Ways to Improve Radiology Diversity
To best serve patient populations, solve problems, and continue to innovate, radiology diversity is a must. Ways to better diversify radiology departments include:
- Tackling Unconscious Bias: Unconscious bias is when people unintentionally make assumptions about a person or groups. It is prevalent in many industries, including healthcare. Researchers have found unconscious bias as it relates to patient well-being, doctor-patient interactions, clinical decision making, and prescribed care.3 All of these cases led to unfavorable results for the patients involved. Therefore, by learning about and striving to counteract unconscious bias, it may encourage people with diverse backgrounds to enter the radiology workforce.
- Make a Strong Commitment: To meet challenges related to the changing demographics and optimize patient care in the best possible manner, there must be a commitment to radiology diversity. By developing and implementing strategies that support diversity as a priority and making it an environment where all members are responsible for cultivating this plan, radiology departments can benefit from the education, research, and practice that underrepresented groups can bring to an institution.4
- Creating Teams That Representative the Communities Served: Diversity is not about just having different types of people working in one department. Wherever the radiology department is located – in a hospital, lab, or health center - the institution’s leaders, the board of trustees, and stakeholders should also be diverse. Taking these steps shows that an institution is diverse with its perspectives, processes, ideas, and goals. This is a clear commitment to diversity.
Better Healthcare Begins with a Connection
A lack of connection can have a devastating impact on patient care. By emphasizing the importance of diversity, it may completely change the way a facility operates and how it is perceived.
Furthermore, prioritizing radiology diversity may lead to improved public health for the entire population. By providing increased access, service quality, and cultural responsiveness, it will also better the quality of care to those from underserved groups.
- Lightfoote JB, Fielding JR, Deville C, et al. Improving diversity, inclusion, and representation in radiology and radiation oncology part 1: why these matter. Journal of the American College of Radiology. August 2014. https://www.jacr.org/article/S1546-1440(14)00126-4/abstract. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Humes KR, Jones NA, Ramirez RR. Overview of race and Hispanic origin: 2010. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Saha S. Taking diversity seriously: the merits of increasing minority representation in medicine. JAMA Internal Medicine. February 2014. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/1792912. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Marrast LM, Zallman L, Woolhandler S, Bor DH, McCormick D. Minority physicians’ role in the care of underserved patients: diversifying the physician workforce may be key in addressing health disparities. JAMA Internal Medicine. February 2014. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1792913. Accessed February 25, 2019.
- Institute for Diversity in Health Management. “Diversities and Disparities A Benchmark of U.S. Hospitals in 2013. http://www.diversityconnection.org/diversityconnection/leadership-conferences/diversity_disparities_Benchmark_study_hospitals_2013.pdf . Accessed February 25, 2019.