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Three ways to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion feedback in your healthcare system

Health systems that evaluate approaches to diversity and inclusion—to create experiences that are fair, equitable, and welcoming for everyone—invariably face challenges.

Recently, the NRC Health Collective, a group of healthcare leaders, met to connect and learn. When discussing their organizations’ diversity, equity, and inclusion work, the NRC Health Collective found that among them:

  • 90% have roles dedicated to this work
  • 76% have a clear path and goal
  • 52% said their organization is exactly where they want to be
  • 50% reported having the resources they need

Below are three successful methods they discussed for including these efforts in organizational work.

  1. Use Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Feedback to Build Strategic Goals

One of the NRC Health Collective attendee explained their aspiration for patients to see themselves in the workforce when patients walk through their organizations’ doors. Additionally an organization’s workforce need to see themselves as well, including, at the executive level, and leaders need to challenge themselves to think differently about recruiting and retention.

Another Collective attendee explained that it makes all the difference in the world when leadership ensures that there is sponsorship and support at the senior level while creating and working toward strategic goals.

What is critical is the unity between diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and other goals within the organization. “We talk about how the most important thing to do is build lifelong relationships with patients,” the attendee said. “We need to ensure they feel comfortable with our language—figuratively or literally. It elevates the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the same critical path as our other goals, like the quality of clinical care and business and perception outcomes.”

  1. Use Feedback to Focus on Employee Engagement

During the Collective, one leader discussed the fact that when you have an extensive health system with 30–40,000 employees with different opinions, it can be very complex and require significant shifts to get everyone on board. Even with clear directions and goals, this leader emphasized, you can’t change beliefs overnight—so patience is key. “Sometimes it takes time, and people have to have more life experiences to become more comfortable, or we wait until someone retires,” the leader noted. “Sure, we do training and focus groups and have come a long way—but there are pieces of culture that can be hard to turn.”

An attendee in a state known for its lack of diversity admitted that their organization had no such efforts in place until the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Since this leader came from another larger, more diverse market, they first approached the problem by ensuring that a more diverse range of faces was used in advertisements—but then they received feedback that this was a bit insulting. Their organization has since focused its efforts on employees and employee engagement.

Ultimately, the Collective agreed that the phrase “Nothing about us, without us” sums up an excellent principle to guide the inclusion journey for healthcare systems. According to this principle, no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group directly affected by that policy. In addition, many attendees mentioned the value of inclusion councils as an employee resource to keep ideas, messaging, and representation authentic.

  1. Ensure That You’re Collecting the Right Quantity and Quality of Feedback
    The Collective agreed that modernizing survey-collection methods is paramount to ensuring that leaders receive the correct quantity and quality of feedback from their patient populations.

For example, NRC Health recently worked with a not-for-profit health system with more than 20 hospitals and more than 500 sites of care. Previously, the health system had found that paper-based surveys had a low response rate overall, and the larger their hospital system grew, the lower its response rate was. As the system moved into larger urban hospitals in more diverse sections of large cities, response rates fell the lowest.

Within 12 weeks of implementation of NRC Health’s patient feedback capabilities for inpatient care, they received 240% more responses than usual in just 12 weeks. This feedback allowed the health system to improve communications and outcomes with diverse populations. Its leaders also noted that they were especially thrilled to hear more voices from African-American and Hispanic patients.

Moving from 30 questions down to 10 using more modern methods of collecting feedback—such as email, text, or phone call—allowed this health system to gain feedback more quickly from their entire patient population. This, in turn, made it possible for them to make operational improvements as appropriate and identify gaps that needed to be resolved for diverse populations. A perk from the survey data? One area of growth they noticed right away was an increase in specific team-member recognition by name, which helped fuel their overall staff-recognition and resilience strategy.

For health systems that are ready to listen, it’s time to increase trust among minority populations—historically populations with high mistrust of medical establishments. Using these three methods, you can increase trust and communication with your patients—it just needs to be the right kind of communication, in a voice your employees and patients understand.