Cross Cultural Communication Training for Physicians

Cross Cultural Communication Training for Physicians – Overview

Healthcare is not the same for everyone. The level and standards of healthcare are usually decided by people’s working and living conditions and access to quality healthcare.

Health inequities are a serious obstacle to universal healthcare. Addressing these inequities requires systemic changes beyond the individual tools available to healthcare workers.

Cultural competence in healthcare is important. It showcases the disparities that people from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds experience.

Cultural competence aims to ensure that healthcare services are effectively adapted to meet the diverse needs of all patients.

Cross-cultural communication training for physicians is part of cultural competence efforts.

Cross Cultural Communication in Health Care

Cross Cultural Communication in Health Care

Cross Cultural Communication in Health Care

Cross-cultural communication competence in health care means providing quality and effective health care to patients with diverse values, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes.

Cultural competence involves more than personalization to languages and cultures; it includes recognizing and addressing systemic biases and inequalities in healthcare. It also involves understanding the potential effect of cultural differences in providing public healthcare services.

For instance, socioeconomic, race and health literacy and other factors can determine:

#1. The way patients perceive symptoms and health disorders

#2. How and when patients need health care

#3. The patients’ expectations regarding health care

#4. The patients’ choices of treatments and procedures

#5. The patient’s willingness to follow the doctor’s recommendations and treatment plans

#6. Who patients believe should be involved in making healthcare decisions

Importance of Cross Cultural Communication in Health Care

Differences between patients and doctors affect communication. This, in turn, affects the patients’ and doctors’ decisions relating to the treatment.

For instance, a doctor may misinterpret a patient’s silence as a lack of interest in receiving health care treatment. This may prevent the doctor from recommending diagnostic tests.

In reality, the patient may be silent as a sign of respectful behavior. When doctors are unable to recognize the cultural differences between them and their patients, it may inadvertently result in providing low-quality health care.

However, cultivating cross-cultural communication skills can enable prompt and equitable healthcare for all.

Language accessibility is crucial but not the only key; understanding cultural nuances and non-verbal cues also plays a significant role in overcoming communication barriers.

This also prevents doctors from explaining the diagnosis to the patient. Thus, language barriers can develop inappropriate and unsafe situations for the doctor and patient in other ways, too.

For instance, many doctors often rely on children to serve as interpreters. This often puts young children in the position of telling a parent that they have cancer.

Also doctors may also have to rely on abusive spouses to interpret their victimized partner, which is unproductive.

Cross-cultural communication training for healthcare providers benefits patients and doctors alike. It enables increased patient engagement and participation, improves understanding and fosters respect. This can help to:

#1. Reduce inefficiencies

#2. Ensure stronger patient safety

#3. Reduce care disparities

#4. Lower cost of healthcare

Integrating Cross-Cultural Communication with Cultural Humility

Healthcare workers make a huge effort to create a multicultural orientation that delivers culturally sensitive healthcare.

It also improves communication between patients and doctors of different races, cultures and social backgrounds.

Still, even when healthcare providers have a good understanding of a culture, they cannot predict the attitudes and behaviors of individual patients simply based on their cultural background.

The reason is that people are unique and their beliefs and behaviors may not always reflect their culture.

With this in mind, healthcare professionals must focus on combining cultural competence and humility.

This approach facilitates the recognition of one’s limitations in understanding diverse cultural backgrounds. This is necessary as even people with developed cultural awareness can have unconscious and unintentional biases against others.

Aims of Cross-Cultural Communication in Health Care

Cross-cultural communication aims to break down barriers that prevent doctors from providing effective healthcare to patients from other cultures.

It also works to ensure an improvement in the understanding and rapport between patient and doctor.

Given the increasing diversity of the US population, it is critical to enhance the healthcare industry’s capacity to meet the diverse needs of patients.

Cultural competence provides the path and plans to enable better care for patients.

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health describes Cultural and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) as:

#1. Effective

#2. Respectful and

#3. Understandable


Studies show that patients are more likely to feel satisfied with their health care quality when the doctor shows non-judgmental openness regarding differences, listens actively, and tries to understand the patient completely.

Hence, cross-cultural communication training for physicians is vital to ensure smooth, streamlined, and equitable healthcare.

See Also

Non Clinical Physician Jobs

Surgeon Salary

Physician Assistant Salary

What is a Resident Doctor

Gender Blood Test at Doctors Office

CBT Training for Family Physicians

Patient Education for Dementia

Grants for Medical Professionals

Best Medical Billing and Coding Schools

Loan Forgiveness for Doctors

Physicians for a National Health Program

Current Version
June 20, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 21, 2024
Updated By
Franco Cuevas, MD

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