Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Disease Management to Improve Health Outcomes
Dennis P. Andrulis
The heightened awareness of substantial racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes has major implications for how healthcare providers effectively manage health conditions among diverse populations. This report identifies five dimensions that address the major causes of disparities that can exert significant influence over the success and quality of the patient-physician relationship, treatment plans, and health outcomes. These five dimensions are (i) biological and genetic influences; (ii) differential access to care; (iii) quality of care disparities; (iv) clinical-patient perceptions and realities; and (v) language and communication barriers. Recommended disease management actions for health practitioners and healthcare organizations focus on promoting more effective interactions between both the patient and the physician in the clinical encounter, methods for improving patient understanding, and education and information to improve treatment adherence and outcome. Educational strategies include: adapting existing protocols in the clinical setting; using communities, the internet and other sources of information; recognizing the importance of racial and ethnic concordance; and assuring competent communication and interpretation in the clinical encounter. Governments also perform several critical functions in addressing racial and ethnic disparities, such as setting the tone and offering leadership, guidance and support for practitioners and their healthcare settings. Ultimately, effective disease management will require practitioners, as well as healthcare organizations and agencies to integrate knowledge and actions around the multiple causes of ethnic and racial disparities into clinical regimens through training, on-site services and resource development.
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