Cultural competency means better patient service

June 15, 2012

Pharmacists who practice cultural awareness can deliver better patient care and bring about better outcomes

"It is a dynamic process, along with a patient-centered care approach, influenced by demographics and social determinants," Kennedy said during a recent annual meeting of the American Pharmacists Association.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health defines "cultural competency" as a "set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or agency, or among professionals, that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations."

Patient-centered care, Kennedy emphasized, will improve communications, enhance patient satisfaction, increase adherence, and ultimately make for better outcomes.

On the other hand, Kennedy said, lack of cultural competency may increase the cost of healthcare, discriminate against populations with disproportionately higher rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and infant mortality; and open the door for malpractice suits.

She employs a model she termed LEARN, which she recommends that providers use with all patients: