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Kaiser Permanente Diversity Initiatives Create Thriving Workplace

July 20, 2015

Cultural barriers should never obstruct patients from receiving quality care.

In some communities, 40 percent or more patients come from multicultural backgrounds. Understanding the needs of patients from diverse backgrounds and how to meet them can be a matter of life and death. Lack of cultural knowledge is a key reason racial and ethnic minorities often receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities.

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That’s why, as rapid shifts in the U.S. racial and ethnic makeup contribute to an increasingly diverse patient base, healthcare providers must be ready to respond to myriad different values, health beliefs and perspectives on wellness.

“Our employees and physicians are transforming care delivery to meet the growing community demand for health improvement services that are accessible, affordable, equitable, and culturally and linguistically personalized,” said Ronald Copeland, MD, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser Permanente leads the charge among healthcare organizations in pioneering ways to serve a diverse and changing patient population. For more than 30 years, Kaiser Permanente has championed respectful and sensitive care for members of the 140 cultures represented in our population with annual diversity conferences and other groundbreaking initiatives.

Here’s how we do it:

Diverse workforce

Attracting—and retaining—a diverse medical workforce plays a critical role in the healthcare industry’s future, Copeland said. When an organization reflects the community it serves, it becomes better able to provide culturally competent and appropriate care.

Over the years, Kaiser Permanente has cultivated a labor force that reflects no one racial majority. Members of a variety of racial, ethnic and cultural minorities comprise nearly 60 percent of our staff, while three-quarters of all employees, nearly half of our executive team and more than a third of our physicians are women.

Our award-winning diversity initiatives for acquiring, developing and promoting multicultural talent have earned us consistent top-five rankings on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, as well as an appearance on Equal Opportunity magazine’s list of top 50 employers.

Inclusive environment

In addition to fostering an inclusive workplace for healthcare professionals, Kaiser Permanente strives to provide an inclusive environment for patients in every minority group we serve.

From hospital policies that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families from discrimination to resources dedicated to 24-hour translation services for non-English-speaking patients, we constantly develop new strategies for meeting the needs of our diverse members. Our efforts earned us the distinction as the first U.S. health and hospital system to earn a perfect rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index.

Positioning our diverse workforce to deliver culturally competent care for a richly varied patient base has been the work of decades.

“We believe the value of diversity is best realized through inclusive leadership and practices that benefit those we are privileged to serve,” Copeland said.

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