DEI in Health Systems: Fostering an Inclusive Environment for a Healthier Future

The patient journey isn’t a universal experience. Studies have shown that White patients tend to be healthier and enjoy greater access to medical services than Black and non-Black patients of color, many of whom already suffer from economic, political, and social inequities. The CDC reports that social determinants of health, such as where a person lives, their occupation, and available resources, contribute to 60% of health outcomes.

While hospitals and medical practices have been establishing initiatives to better prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the healthcare space, there’s still room for improvement. How can health system marketers ensure that their DEI programming is effectively helping historically underserved populations acquire the care they need?

Providing patient-centric care starts with identifying what BIPOC patients expect, want, and need in healthcare. Being mindful of the importance of DEI can help health system marketers better understand their target audiences so they can tailor their outreach to be culturally competent and compassionate. In collaboration with Infosurv, Healthgrades surveyed White patients and Black, Indigenous, and non-black patients of color (BIPOC) to analyze how patient sentiments differ across races and ethnicities. Here’s what we found. 

Insights From the Healthgrades BIPOC Healthcare Attitudes Survey

The 20-question survey was completed by a participant pool of over 600 U.S. patients equally distributed across states, income level, gender identity, sexual orientation, and age. Responses were categorized into three racial groups: White patients (total: 200), Black patients (total: 189), and non-Black POC patients (total: 215). 

Regardless of race or ethnicity, the majority of respondents trust their doctors. 78% of BIPOC patients agree with the statement, “I have a doctor that I trust completely.” Still, they’re also 150% more likely than White respondents to disagree with that statement. While it is impossible to pinpoint which factors are responsible for persistent health disparities, these sentiments do clue us in to which pain points need to be addressed. 

Below are some key takeaways from the current state of DEI in healthcare that marketers should keep in mind.

Impact of Doctor’s Race on Patient Experience

Our research found that while most respondents feel their healthcare options are representative of their communities, White respondents are 32% more likely than BIPOC respondents to feel this way. Although the study showed that most patients don’t think it’s essential to be of the same race or ethnicity as their doctor, it’s worth noting that only 25% of BIPOC respondents saw a healthcare professional in the past year who was of the same race or ethnicity compared to 64% of White respondents.

Still, there are stark discrepancies in the quantities of White doctors and BIPOC doctors employed, indicating a lack of racial and ethnic diversity within the professional healthcare field that can affect quality of care.

Access to Care

Our study also showed that Hispanic patients are more likely to forgo treatment because of impending costs, with 33% confirming they’ve avoided seeking healthcare in the past two years due to cost concerns compared to under 20% of Black or White respondents. While the majority of all respondents feel they have access to high-quality care in their area, non-Black patients of color (77%) are less likely than Black (83%) or White (85%) patients to agree.

Sources of Healthcare Information

Although weighted slightly differently across races/ethnicities, the top three sources of healthcare information for all groups are professional healthcare recommendations, family members, and health system websites. Additionally, White patients rely more on referrals from physicians than Black or non-Black patients of color, and non-Black patients of color rely more on familial recommendations than White or Black patients.

Three Ways to Make Your Hospital’s Marketing More Inclusive

Our data shows that health systems are making significant strides in implementing DEI measures to boost patient satisfaction and accessibility. However, systemic racism and social injustices cannot be addressed overnight. Hospital marketers should ensure their strategy reflects lived experiences of their local community. From the advertisements prospective patients encounter during their search for care to the doctors they book appointments with, here are three ways marketers can better serve and resonate with diverse audiences.

1. Invest in Regular Internal Training

As with any initiative, DEI efforts are only as strong as the support they gather. Top-to-bottom alignment with DEI goals yields feasible and practical measures that can be applied in any role, from a high-level executive to a nursing assistant. Plus, recent research has shown that both patients and doctors see the value in additional training. 

The Healthgrades BIPOC Healthcare Attitudes Survey found that Black patients and non-Black patients of color are 47% more likely to think their doctors need training to improve their ability to care for patients of different cultural or racial backgrounds. In a separate Healthgrades study on cultural competency awareness among physicians, 24% of doctors surveyed also agree that they need more training to provide the best possible care. Regular DEI training sessions keep DEI top of mind for all employees and foster better patient experiences. 

2. Use Content to Elevate Marginalized Communities

Illustrating that your health system is aware of healthcare disparities while informing site visitors of how BIPOC patients experience healthcare differently brings awareness to systemic issues. Creating blog posts, articles, videos, and guides that discuss specific chronic conditions and their prevalence in certain communities equips patients with the data they need to make informed decisions about their health and gives them the confidence to appoint with your hospital. Also, make sure that all patients in your local community can access your content by translating it into the most common languages understood by your patients.

For deeper insight, form a diverse marketing team that can speak to relevant DEI topics. A 2021 report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) shows that agencies are hiring more BIPOC candidates, with BIPOC marketers making up 31% of the industry—a number that has been increasing since 2019. Messaging that incorporates a marketer’s personal experience can motivate a patient to choose one health system over another.

3. Insist on Diverse Casting for Video Content

Similarly, video content, such as advertisements, patient and physician interviews, and explainer clips, should mirror what the healthcare experience is like (and should be like) for BIPOC patients. Nothing is more reassuring to a patient than feeling seen and heard. Demonstrate that your health system understands how marginalized communities experience care differently. Don’t be afraid to showcase your ongoing efforts to ensure that patients of all backgrounds receive the care they deserve. 

Better Care, Brighter Futures 

Addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities in the healthcare industry may seem daunting, but it’s vital. Patients appreciate the intention behind DEI objectives and notice when hospitals and medical practices are doing their best to be as inclusive as possible. After all, any step towards a diverse, equitable, and inclusive future is a win for everyone.