February 12, 2013
Researchers have found that minority patients with HIV infection receive better care and have better outcomes if their doctors and healthcare providers are "culturally competent." The researchers defined cultural competence as a combination of awareness, attitudes, skills, and behaviors related to healthcare providers' ability to care for diverse groups of patients.
Researchers studied 45 healthcare providers and 437 patients at four HIV clinics in Baltimore, Detroit, New York, and Portland, Ore. The medical professionals rated their cultural competence, and researchers assessed patients' quality of care, including whether they were taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), whether they kept up their treatment, and their viral load.
Results show that when minority patients were treated by providers with medium or high cultural competence, they were more likely to be on ARVs, adhere to treatment, and manage their condition. Also, non-white patients treated by less culturally competent providers were less likely than white patients to be on ARVs, manage their medications well, or have a suppressed viral load. Non-white and white patients treated by more culturally competent healthcare providers had similar treatment and outcomes.
Findings suggest that training interventions or efforts to diversify healthcare providers increase their cultural competence and can help reduce minority disparities in the quality of care and health of diverse patient populations.
The full report, "Primary Care Provider Cultural Competence and Racial Disparities in HIV Care and Outcomes," was published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, (2013; doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2298-8).