Workforce Development

Cultivating an Inclusive Environment in Healthcare

An inclusive environment needs open communication

As the healthcare industry continues to expand and transform, maintaining an inclusive environment within your organization is integral. By celebrating diversity, more ideas can be brought to the table from varying perspectives and backgrounds, helping healthcare organizations reach their full innovative potential.

According to Harvard Business Review, there are no female black or Latina CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—and two separate reports cited indicate that more than half of these minority groups surveyed feel there is a lack of inclusivity in their workplace.

Recognizing this, members of the HIMSS Global Health Equity Network got together to discuss what it takes to cultivate a culture of acceptance and appreciation for employee diversity. All agreed that driving this transformation means addressing the need for inclusivity at all levels, along with education, supportive communities and open communication.

Inclusivity Starts at the Leadership Level

To activate real change, organizational leadership must be fully engaged in the process of creating an inclusive environment through diversification.

“Everything happens from the top down,” said Iris Frye, MS, MBA, CPHIMS, founder and chief innovator at Parity Health Information and Technology LLC. “Educating our leaders is what’s most important… by doing so, we are creating an infrastructure that allows everyone else to follow what is expected. And that is recognizing and celebrating our employees’ differences.”

To do this, Anne Park, MPH, MSMIS, CPHQ, FHIMSS, senior business systems analyst, MD Anderson Cancer Center, said organizations must develop policies, procedures and strategies designed by top leadership. Park shared how they manage this within her own organization: “We mandate all of our schools and hospitals to comply with what’s called the opportunity rule. This rule mandates any positions that are executive director or above must have female and minority candidates.”

Requires an Understanding of Unconscious Bias

Along these lines, leadership and staff need to understand, acknowledge and prevent unfair bias that can get in the way of individual opportunities and hinder efforts to foster an inclusive environment.

“It affects us in major decision points such as hiring or promotions,” said Park, whose organization provides structured training—mandatory for many employees—focused on removing unconscious bias.

As Park puts it, everyone has biases, whether conscious or unconscious, and once we identify them, we’re one step closer to eliminating them.

Watch Frye and Danielle Siarri, MSN, RN, discuss the power of coming together to effect change with HIMSS TV.

Needs Supportive Communities

“When I think about the topics we’re trying to address like building a more diverse workforce, from a personal perspective, I see this being about social impact,” said Luis Belen, chief executive officer, National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved. “This is an economics of social justice discussion as well,” he said, adding that communities should have the opportunity to participate in the healthcare industry through access to innovation and the workforce.

Engaging in communities can help develop work pipelines that lead to more opportunities for individuals who need them most, like those living in underserved areas. Pipeline activities can include on-campus recruiting, internships and apprenticeships for youth or individuals early in their career.

“As an industry,” shared Denise Hines, chief Americas officer at HIMSS, “we should be focusing on enhancing our understanding of underrepresented groups, building a diverse workforce, and improving and designing systems and solutions to support patients from every background.”

Thrives With Open Communication

Creating an inclusive environment also means creating spaces that are dedicated to celebrating individuals’ differences. That’s why many organizations are implementing diversity councils and like-minded committees to create support networks for their employees.

Belen shared that it’s important for healthcare professionals to be given a platform “to be actively involved, to be dedicated, but also encourage their colleagues to come to the table, participate and give an understanding of what’s going on. There’s a difference between having knowledge, but also sharing and engaging and practicing what we talk about.”

An inclusive environment cannot happen without open communication, which is why support from a diverse leadership team that drives conversations, supports transparency and encourages inclusion-focused communities is crucial to engage people in a culture of diversity.

Global Health Equity Network

Help advance the cause of health and wellness for everyone, everywhere by advocating for underserved groups in health information and technology around the globe, and collaborate to find real-world solutions to challenges and roadblocks.

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Originally published February 10, 2020