In a country with a diverse population like the United States, it is more likely that potential barriers exist that hinder the equal provision of services for the individual member groups. The diversity in culture is at the middle as the cause for these barriers. This disparity is more likely to affect members of a minority group. In the health department, potential barriers exist especially for members of minority groups which could be driven by different factors. The Hispanics group is one of the minority group living in the community served by the hospital I work in and they face barriers in accessing health care services of high quality, especially due to their socioeconomic status (Escarce & Kapur, 2006). This paper will discuss these potential barriers and seek solutions aimed at achieving cultural competence, and as such provision of quality healthcare.
For a person to receive adequate health care, and especially so in a diverse population, several considerations must be addressed. Several barriers exist and they hinder effective service delivery in the health department. One of the major barriers to appropriate health care in the United States is lack of fluency in language according to a number of studies. According to Joint Commission (2010), failing in knowledge of the patient's language abilities as well as cultural beliefs and values can translate to serious threats to life and quality health care. Another barrier is availability. Most of the people in the Hispanic community are working in different capacities. Working hours often coincide with the hospital hours creating a difficulty in accessing services when they finally get free. Booking appointments also becomes a challenge. Accessibility is another potential barrier. This is especially so for parents with small children. Making connections to the hospital could turn out difficult if one has no one with whom to leave the children. Affordability is one of the major barriers, especially for the low-income earners. The financial status of the Hispanics is not too well and they may fail to afford the services even when they are available.
Appropriateness of services poses another possible barrier. This is where the available services are not the appropriate ones for the need of the patient. For instance, a patient may be requiring psychiatry services but the hospital is offering maternal services only. Accountability by the healthcare providers may be wanting. This is in line with their sensitivity to cultural diversity and competence for the people they are serving. If they are not, then this can result in a huge problem. Adaptability is another barrier facing healthcare (Purnell, 2012). These are cases where a patient may require several services. For instance, can a person who needs an injection and psychiatry services receive both at once or one may need to book separate appointments? Acceptability for the patient is yet another possible barrier. This is in regard to whether the services are offered in a language that the patient prefers or understands. This is vital since communication will greatly affect the effectiveness of services. It will also determine whether the patient feels accepted or not. Next is awareness. Patients need to be aware whether the services they are seeking are offered in a particular hospital or not. Lack of awareness could mean that services remain unutilized yet they are needed. A negative attitude is one of the major barriers (Purnell, 2012). When health providers express a negative attitude towards patients, the latter withdraws from seeking medical services and will only return if their health is compromised and they lack another alternative.
Another possible barrier is approachability. This is in the context of how the healthcare providers treat the patients. For instance, the reception by the receptionist, whether the doctor is warm and at times whether they (patients) are referred by name. How easy or hard it is to approach the healthcare providers determines the efficiency of the process, especially on the part of customer satisfaction. Another barrier is alternative practices and practitioners. Patients may have other complementary practices they would like incorporated in the treatment process. If these are not included by the healthcare provider, the patient may not consider the process complete and as such may fail to utilize it. Finally, there is the potential barrier in the form of additional services (Purnell, 2012). This calls for diversification of services such that if a parent brings along a child or an aging relative, they too will be attended to. These barriers can be identified in the health department and it is up to the stakeholders to address them.
There are various ways in which these barriers can be reduced in the health care sector to ensure that no person seeking services experiences them. This can be done by increasing cultural competence for the healthcare providers. Increasing one's awareness of cultural diversity boosts one's competence in care giving. Healthcare providers can assist in reducing the barriers by engaging outside personnel such as ethnic agencies or churches for assistance in providing for advocacy. They can also employ professional services from people in the ethnic group to offer appropriate cultural and linguistic services to the healthcare providers. As cited by Purnell (2002), the Purnell Model for Cultural Competence would also be applicable in increasing cultural competence in the health department.
In summary, the healthcare sector in the United States, and other parts of the world is exposed to potential barriers which could hinder service delivery, especially for minority groups. The barriers could be in the form of availability, accessibility, affordability, appropriateness, accountability, adaptability, acceptability, awareness, attitudes, approachability, alternative practices and practitioners, and additional services. These barriers can be reduced through increasing cultural competence.
Escarce, J. J., & Kapur, K. (2006). Access to and quality of health care. Hispanics and the Future of America, 410-415.
Joint Commission. (2010). Joint Commission Requirements. The Joint Commission.
Purnell, L. D. (2012). Transcultural health care: A culturally competent approach. FA Davis.
Purnell, L. (2002). The Purnell model for cultural competence. Journal of transcultural nursing, 13(3), 193-196.
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