One Midwestern hospital created a “diversity intranet” to educate its staff about how to provide culturally sensitive care to patients from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Another hospital eliminated financial barriers to providing interpreter services for limited-English-speaking patients by centralizing its budget so that interpreter-service expenses are no longer charged to individual departments. Some hospitals use stickers or color-coded armbands to easily identify the different languages spoken by patients. One hospital even developed hands-on role-playing activities that gave staff the opportunity to experience the perspective of hearing- and vision-impaired patients.

These are just a few examples of the culturally and linguistically competent best practices health care organizations can learn from by reading One Size Does Not Fit All: Meeting the Health Care Needs of Diverse Populations, a report published in April by The Joint Commission. The report is the result of a comprehensive multi-year research study, funded by The California Endowment, that examined how 60 hospitals across the country are responding to the cultural and language needs of their increasingly diverse patients.

Designed as a practical guide to help health care facilities develop and improve programs and services that accommodate the needs of diverse patient populations, the report provides a wealth of advice, recommendations and “here’s what’s working” examples. Topics covered include recruiting a more diverse staff, eliminating verbal and written language barriers, providing cultural competence training, helping immigrant patients navigate the health care system and much more. 
The report also includes a detailed self-assessment tool that hospitals can use as a framework to evaluate their needs and tailor their cultural and linguistic competency initiatives to the specific populations they serve. This framework–and the report as a whole–encourages health care organizations to:

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• Build a leadership-driven foundation to establish specific organization-wide policies and procedures for better meeting patients’ diverse cultural and language needs.

• Collect and use data to assess community and patient needs and improve current cultural and language services—e.g., interpreter services, spiritual care services and dietary services.

• Accommodate the needs of specific populations through a continuous process of targeting culturally competent initiatives to those needs. This includes staff training and education as well as patient education and other strategies that help patients better manage their care.

• Establish internal and external collaborations with the local community in order to share information and resources that meet the needs of diverse patients.

The complete One Size Does Not Fit All report can be downloaded free of charge, in both print and podcast formats,

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