Culturally competent care: a national campaign

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define cultural competence as “The integration of knowledge about people into specific policies, practices and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes.”1 With regards to providers and health care systems, those practicing cultural competence meet the social, cultural and linguistic needs of patients – contributing to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities.2

Studies show that cultural competency training has a significant impact on providers’ knowledge, comprehension and skillset necessary for treating patients from diverse backgrounds.3 Health systems that integrate culturally competent care into their services have been found to increase patient engagement, improve patient safety, reduce inefficiencies and disparities in care and decrease care costs.4 Culturally appropriate care additionally improves diagnostic accuracy, increases adherence to recommended treatment and reduces inappropriate emergency room and hospital use.5

Dedicated to making the health system work better for everyone, UnitedHealthcare launched a national health equity and cultural competency program. Through this program, UnitedHealthcare aims to integrate cultural competency and health equity in all practices.

Completed initiatives

In April of 2023, we released the fully revised Cultural Competency page within the provider portal. The revised page was restructured to:

  • Stress the importance of equitable health care.
  • Explain why cultural competency matters.
  • Provide education and other relevant resources, and
  • Encourage providers to report cultural competency information so that we may share it within the directory for member visibility.

In October of 2023, we created and published the first UnitedHealthcare-branded I Speak card. The I Speak card is a resource for care providers to use in their offices for non-English speaking members. The card contains 60+ languages with both the English and Native language listed. The intent is for the office to have this card available (either behind the desk or laminated and posted on the wall) so that it is visible to UnitedHealthcare members to point to the language that they speak. The backside of the card is a resource for the provider office. It includes instructions on how to contact Provider Services to help arrange for interpreter services, should the office not have their own arrangements, as well as other resources. This card can be downloaded from the cultural competency webpage.

Ongoing initiatives

The following health equity initiatives are currently ongoing:

  • Provider marketing campaign
    • Initiated around cultural holidays, provider marketing campaigns promote cultural competency, encouraging providers to report completed training courses and languages spoken within their practice.
  • LGBTQ+ supportive care
    • This initiative promotes LGBTQ+ cultural competency trainings and the collection of LGBTQ+ “Areas of expertise”. Areas of expertise indicate a health care professional’s experience and certifications, helping members to identify professionals who can best meet their unique needs.

Development underway:

Cultural competency code revisions

  • Cultural competency codes are field values within our internal database to store the category of training taken.
  • The cultural competency code categories were created in response to the Medicaid Managed Care Rule issued in April of 2016 requiring completed cultural competency training to be included in the provider directory.
  • Analysis revealed the need to review the current code categories.
    • 25%+ of providers are choosing the default category of “unspecified” because providers cannot intuitively cross link the course completed to the categories available for selection.
  • The revised codes will allow UnitedHealthcare providers more descriptive options regarding the type of cultural competency courses completed.

Preference Center (Profile & Settings)

  • Profile & Settings is an existing tool within the provider portal that has been enhanced to present required, where applicable, and/or recommended cultural competency trainings to providers in a “Tailored Training” library, track completion of trainings via self-attestation, and send reminders for incomplete trainings, if/when required.
  • This tool will allow for cultural competency trainings to be suggested to specific audiences – for example to Primary Care Providers (PCPs) and high-volume specialists.

UnitedHealthcare is committed to providing all members with high-quality services that support their whole person needs. Through the provision of cultural competency trainings, health equity related marketing campaigns, enhanced reporting, and necessary system updates, UnitedHealthcare aims to make culturally competent care the standard.

Learn more about UnitedHealthcare’s efforts to promote health equity through cultural humility – an openness to learn about the culture and beliefs of others.

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