Closing the Gaps

New Study Focuses on Reducing Disparities in Health Care

2013_gapsIn today’s multicultural environment, efficient health care involves more than just clinical diagnosis, pathology, and treatment.

SHP professor Robert Weech-Maldonado, Ph.D., argues that it is more important than ever that hospitals develop greater cultural competency to ensure high-quality care for all patients.

Weech-Maldonado, the UAB L.R. Jordan Chair of Health Administration, has gained national prominence over the past decade for his work on health-care organizational cultural competency and how it relates to racial and ethnic differences in patient experiences and health disparities. His work has generated evidence in support of a “business model” where organizations benefit by eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in the care they provide.

His most recent study was conducted along with Marc Elliott, Ph.D.; Rohit Pradhan, Ph.D.; Cameron Schiller, M.S.; Allyson Hall, Ph.D.; and Ron D. Hays, Ph.D. Their findings were recently published in the journal Medical Care.

“Previous studies have examined the impact of specific practices—such as the use of interpreters, recruitment and retention of minority staff, and diversity training—but few have examined the impact of systemwide organizational cultural competency on patient outcomes,” Weech-Maldonado says. “Successful implementation of cultural competency requires an organizational commitment toward an approach that integrates cultural competency practices throughout a healthcare organization’s management and clinical subsystems.”

In this study, investigators combined Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys and Cultural Competency Assessment Tool of Hospitals surveys, resulting in information from 66 California hospitals and from 19,583 patients in 2006.

The study found that “hospitals with greater cultural competency have better HCAHPS scores for doctor communication, hospital rating, and hospital recommendation. Furthermore, HCAHPS scores for minorities were higher at hospitals with greater cultural competency on four other dimensions: nurse communication, staff responsiveness, quiet room, and pain control.”

The study concludes that “greater hospital cultural competency may improve overall patient experiences, but may particularly benefit minorities in their interactions with nurses and hospital staff.”

To read the complete paper, visit