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 their working and living conditions along with the access to quality healthcare.

Health inequities are a serious obstacle in the path to universal healthcare. However, healthcare workers have effective tools at their disposal that can improve the condition.

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 all patients get efficient medical and healthcare to lead comfortable and healthy lives.

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 is achievable through personalizing healthcare as per the different languages and cultures. 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 the key. Communication barriers prevent patients from accurately describing their symptoms.

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, to say the least.

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

Combining 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 belonging to different races, cultures and social backgrounds.

Still, even when healthcare providers have a good understanding of a culture, they cannot predict the attitudes and behavior of individual patients, simply according to 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 need to focus on combining cultural competence with cultural humility.

Using this, it is easier to recognize the limits of others’ knowledge of people. 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.

At a time when the US population is rapidly growing diverse, there is an urgent need to expand the healthcare industry’s ability to address patient requirements.

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 when it comes to differences, listens actively, and makes efforts to understand the patient completely.

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


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