Healthcare inequities were front and center at the most recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), which included a Health Care Equity Symposium and no less than 21 sessions focused entirely on equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).
EDI is not new to the academy with previous initiatives including:
- Diversity Leadership Program (2014)
- Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Joint Coordinating Council, or EDIJCC (2019)
- Position statement condemning systemic racism and inequities in society (2020)
Through their educational efforts at this year’s meeting, the AAN called further attention to these issues and urged neurologists to take up the call in their own practices, if they haven’t already.
Dr. Elaine Jones, who sits on the EDIJCC and chairs the board’s gender disparities work group, offered some advice for private practices on how to increase diversity and create a more inclusive work environment.
Survey Your Own Staff
A simple way to start is to look at your organizational culture and staff diversity. When hiring someone new, consider mirroring the diversity of your community and the patients you serve.
Jones said that increased diversity in private practice has helped many practices:
- Increase creativity in problem solving
- Foster better decision making
- Expand profitability and productivity
- Enhance employee engagement
- Boost patient retention and referrals
Include your current staff in discussions around the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and work together to develop policies to guide your move forward, she added.
Develop an EDI Policy
Even if you are just beginning this process, Jones advised letting the people who come into your office know about it. Draft a statement and put it in a prominent place, to indicate that this is something important to your practice.
Use clear and active language to draft your statement. For example:
- “We are an anti-racist or anti-discriminatory practice. Please ask what is being done and offer feedback and suggestions.”
- “This office appreciates the diversity of human beings and does not discriminate based on race, age, religion, ability, marital status, sexual orientation, sex or gender identity or expression.”
- “Equal care will be provided to all patients, regardless of age, race, ethnicity.”
Jones also recommended adopting a “no tolerance policy” and calling people out when they exhibit behavior that is inconsistent with your policy.
If someone makes a disparaging remark, “you don’t have to be rude about it, but you definitely don’t want to just let it pass either. That’s how you actively make change,” she said.
Setting a policy and engaging in better behavior is just the start in our journey toward improving healthcare equity. Jones encouraged everyone to seek out the many resources available to help you along the way, including the following books:
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- A Black Man in a White Coat by Dr. Damon Tweedy
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
Additional resources can be found on the AAN IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-racism, & Social justice) page.