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Healthcare and Communication Essay


Healthcare is a continuous growing field, within this field you are faced with many diverse cultures that have different values, beliefs, practice and customs of a special group. Among the many challenges facing healthcare is the role of language and cultural barriers that can affect health care and the quality of care that a patient may receive. Healthcare provider interactions, preferred treatment of care are some of the cultural behaviors that are encountered in the daily decision making process. Cultural behavior and the value can affect such use in preventive health care, health related lifestyle, and sources of health related knowledge. The challenge in healthcare today is the number of the patient population that is diverse from the usual United States population.

Effective Communication

The growth of the culturally and linguistically diverse population has led to many efforts to encourage or ensure that health care systems respond to the distinct needs of culturally and linguistically different patients by becoming “culturally competent” Just as with the concept of culture, there are many definitions of cultural competency. However, most definitions are derived from one developed by mental health researchers who defined cultural competence as “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or amongst professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations” (Cross et al. 1989, cited in Brach and Fraser 2000: 182). Effective communication between patients and physicians who are culturally and linguistically different implies the employment of strategies to provide culturally competent health care.

At a minimum, effective communication means that all participants in the communication comprehend and understand the content of the communication. Beyond this minimum, effective communication implies subjective feelings such as trust, empathy, and mutual satisfaction with the communication. In the case of patient-physician verbal communication during a clinical encounter, effective communication means that both physician and patient. As a provider of healthcare you must be able to understand the content of each other’s spoken communication thoughts related to the encounter, leaving no questions and thoughts unexpressed. You must have the patient feel that sufficient time is available for speaking and listening, and the overall satisfaction with the communication was successful.

Language Barriers

Environmental, socioeconomic characteristics and perceptual contexts have a vast impact on communication. Researchers have taken surveys of micro groups of culture and Latinos as well as Hispanics have shown that due to the lower access of health care language barriers have had an adverse impact on patient appointments, how providers explain symptoms, and the understanding of terminology. Language and cultural barriers can be added to health behavior models to illustrate their effects on access to medical care. For example, limited English proficiency and cultural unfamiliarity with the U.S. health care system can both be considered inhibitors or barriers in accessing medical care. The healthcare belief model shows the effects of f cultural differences on health care use are similar to those of language.

Cultural differences often translate into cultural barriers that lower access to health care. However, the research on cultural barriers on access or use of health care is not as extensive as research on language barriers. Language and culture are used interchangeably so that the effects of culture may not be distinguished from those of language. Skill in a language does not necessarily bring with it cultural familiarity and competence. Providers can choose to learn a second language, let us say, Japanese, and become sufficiently proficient that she is ilingual in English and Japanese. She may still lack cultural knowledge of Japanese culture, including values and beliefs about health and illness, traditional health treatments, and the experience of being a immigrant in the United States. Overcoming the language barrier is a major step in effective communication with Japanese speaking patients, but cultural differences can still affect the doctor patient relationship.

Healthcare High and Low Context

Providers in general need to be more empathetic when dealing with high and low context cultures, the quality of interaction is very important. High text cultures tend to have a more moderate or suppressed expression of negative or confrontational messages, unlike the low context culture. In the low context culture silence and pauses are often misunderstood as the patient agreeing with the situation. Responsibility of communication lies with the provider, to be clearer of the information that is being transposed through provider patient relationship. To improve the quality of care providers must be able to recognize patterns and body language, and take an emphasis on listening, and take note of response and speech. With the acknowledgement of these patterns providers and staff are able to reduce the amount of error that can occur in health care.

Healthcare Stereotyping

Stereotyping is a behavior used when there is uncertainty; providers may apply this type of treatment when faced with medical decision making. Individual often harbor negative associations in relation to various groups. African American patients have been viewed as less educated, and less likely to comply with the providers instructions. Providers are often unaware of here bias decisions. One stereotype is that of Black Americans are less cooperative when it comes to medical procedures, this is called automatic stereotyping. To beat this type of treatment is vital that the provider communicates with patients; understand the environmental state of these patients. Many patients who don’t receive proper care is due to the cost of health insurance, lack of finance, and communities that are lacking proper physician care. Patient care must be treated as an equal.


The healthcare field as been viewed as a field that has overcome many barriers, unfortunately that’s untrue, many providers suffer from the lack of communication, and understanding why it is important to break cultural barriers. Perception and disparities in health care are often stereotype those without health insurance, how well a patient speaks English, and lastly patient gender. As health care providers it is very important to understand the quality of care that is expected among cultures. Communication among the patient and physician can make or break the organization values.

Neulip, J. W. (4th Edition 2009). Intercultural Communication. In J. W. Neulip, A Contextual Approach. Sage Publications.

Singleton, K., Krause, E., (Sept. 30, 2009) “Understanding Cultural and Linguistic Barriers to Health Literacy” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol.

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