3 Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Healthcare
Healthcare providers looking to promote equity in healthcare outcomes and reduce cultural healthcare disparities might want to look inward, particularly at the diversity of their leadership teams.
According to estimates based on data from the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), 89% percent of all hospital CEOs in 2019 were white. Meanwhile, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 60% of the population is white (non-Hispanic or Latino).
The Census Bureau also projects that the United States will reach a majority-minority balance by 2045. ACHE states that healthcare leadership does not currently reflect the same diversity already observed in patient populations.
Here are some benefits of more inclusive leadership in healthcare.
Promotes Equity in Healthcare Outcomes
Inclusive leadership has been shown to improve healthcare outcomes. A 2022 healthcare leadership study found that inclusive leadership not only has a strong potential to promote sustainable health outcomes but also “allows for more compassionate, humane, and caring healthcare organizations in conformity to the emerging challenges for managing healthcare in a post-COVID-19 world.”
Recent health policy and management research unilaterally found that hiring and empowering diverse, inclusive leadership makes healthcare workers throughout the organizational hierarchy feel they can speak up and be heard. And that type of environment saves lives.
“Of all professions, healthcare is one that requires the most nuance in order to meet every patient’s unique needs,” says Rio Wolff, Co-Founder and COO of Big Heart Toys. “From senior care to mental health, cultural differences to socioeconomic barriers to adequate care, there is so much complexity that the value in having a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds in healthcare leadership can be nothing other than a boon to patient outcomes.”
Reduces Cultural Healthcare Disparities
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, people of color and other underserved groups faced long-standing health disparities. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the pandemic has only increased those gaps.
One way to close the gap on cultural healthcare disparities is to form a bond of trust with underserved communities by providing access to healthcare services and promoting leaders who are a part of those communities.
That’s why ACHE, the AMA, and other medical associations embrace DEI efforts, especially on the executive leadership level.
“When BIPOC people see themselves reflected in key roles in the mental healthcare system, especially at the leadership level, it tells them that this is an industry that welcomes them,” says
Drake Ballew, Founder and CEO of Practice Health. “Furthermore, BIPOC people in leadership positions can proactively take steps to reach out to communities from diverse backgrounds and take other steps to make healthcare more accessible to all.”
“For example, engaging marginalized populations from the beginning in how to deliver healthcare allows us to hopefully bypass potential barriers traditionally found in healthcare programming,” she says.
Inclusion Isn’t Just a Trend
By including different races, ethnicities, and genders in boardrooms and decision-making roles, healthcare organizations can improve patient outcomes and relationships with underserved communities.
“Inclusive leadership in healthcare is a win-win for everyone, and it’s the right thing to do,” Ballew says.