Improving Patient Care Through Diversity & Inclusion

The Client

A highly successful healthcare system operating across five states and experiencing dramatic growth and change wanted to establish a more formal focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the organization.

The Problem

Healthcare, as an industry, has an urgent need for more focus on D&I. In addition to the accelerating changes in U.S. demographics, a focus on diversity and inclusion can positively impact other challenges facing healthcare systems:

Culturally Competent Care – The ability to deliver care to all patients, has a direct impact to the bottom line. The stronger the relationship and trust between patient and caregiver, the more likely the patient will follow preventative recommendations, avoiding re-admittance. Affordable Care Act guidelines and changes to reimbursement have a direct correlation to the bottom line. Certain meaningful use metrics will be impossible to meet without culturally competent care.

Patient Equity – Research tells us that patient equity across demographics is an issue. A true understanding of diversity will help close the gap and ensure that every patient receives the same level of care and attention.

Competition for Talent – Inspiring and developing care providers needs to be a top priority as there is a known shortage of talent across the industry. Creating a welcoming workplace where caregivers feel respected and valued and heard despite any differences is essential.

The Challenge

This client knew that they wanted a stronger focus on D&I, but the complexity and speed of change in the healthcare industry meant that any new initiatives required careful consideration before being introduced. With multiple large acquisitions in play, an organizational structure that was evolving from a regional focus to a headquarters/system focus, and multiple reasons to rapidly improve D&I, we needed to proceed thoughtfully and carefully.


  • Creating a consistent D&I practice is a priority to the board of directors
  • Objectives need to include both an understanding of D&I and cultural and behavioral changes
  • ACA and other healthcare dynamics are driving urgency
  • Acquisitions are adding to complexity
  • A phased approach is ideal for activation

The leaders chose me specifically because of my expertise in talent management, change management, and D&I strategy operations at both the board of directors and c-suite levels. I also have a strong understanding of how businesses are run and decisions are made, which allows me to navigate organizations effectively and be both strategic and practical in my recommendations.

My Role

During my time with the client, I functioned as a strategic thought partner and D&I consultant.

What We Did

The first thing I did was an assessment. I began by interviewing a cross-section of the board of directors, the CEO and his direct reports, and many other key leaders across different parts of the system. I reviewed caregiver engagement details, HR and talent processes, and policies relevant to the topic. I discussed different aspects of the communities and cultural aspects that were similar and different across the organization.

Assessment Objectives:

  • To identify employee personal perceptions regarding diversity, inclusion and the readiness of the organizational culture to support diversity & inclusion efforts
  • To identify the behaviors and practices that either support or act as barriers to effective diversity and inclusion management and to accomplishing the organization’s objectives
  • To identify diversity tensions and their sources
  • To identify priorities for culture change and diversity and inclusion program planning
  • To establish a baseline against which to measure progress in adapting culture and facilitating effective diversity and inclusion management
  • To offer recommendations for diversity and inclusion implementation plans for the organization

Once I’d spent an appropriate amount of time assessing the situation, I had several concrete recommendations of focus for my client. Examples at a high level are:

  • Commitment
    • Business case
    • Top-down leadership commitment
    • Accountability
    • Making it personal
  • Care Providers
    • Engagement
    • Continuous development
    • Talent acquisition
    • Continuous improvement of HR policies and practices
  • Patients
    • Inclusive leadership skills
    • Realize promise of diversity
    • High reliability
  • Community
    • Expand ERGs
    • Community partners
    • Leverage community resources
    • D&I partners

The Result

Since my time with the client, they have continued to build on the recommendations as part of their goal to redesign patient care across their system. They have diversified the senior leadership of the organization, created new talent and development strategies, and strengthened their commitments to their caregivers, patients, and communities they operate in and serve.