Cultural Competency

Good communication between members and providers contributes directly to patient satisfaction and positive outcomes

A culturally competent provider effectively communicates with patients and understands their individual concerns. It’s incumbent on providers to make sure patients understand their care regimen.

Each segment of our population requires special sensitivities and strategies to embrace cultural differences.

Effective health communication is as important to health care as clinical skill. To improve individual health and build healthy communities, providers need to recognize and address the unique culture, language and health literacy of diverse consumers and communities. The Aetna Better Health Cultural Competency program is geared toward the following:

  • Improving health care access and utilization
  • Enhancing the quality of services within culturally diverse and underserved communities
  • Promoting cultural and linguistic competence as essential approaches in the elimination of health disparities.

Additional provider-focused cultural competency resources can be found with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Culture is a major factor in how people respond to health services. If affects their approach to:

  • Coping with illness
  • Accessing care
  • Working toward recovery

Providers receive education about such important topics as:

  • The reluctance of certain cultures to discuss mental health issues and of the need to proactively encourage members from such backgrounds to seek needed treatment
  • The impact that a member’s religious and/or cultural beliefs can have on health outcomes (e.g. belief in non-traditional healing practices)
  • The problem of health illiteracy and the need to provide patients with understandable health information (e.g. simple diagrams, communicating in the vernacular, etc.)
  • History of the disability rights movement and the progression of civil rights for people with disabilities
  • Physical and programmatic barriers that impact people with disabilities accessing meaningful care

As part of our cultural competency program, we encourage our providers to access information on the Office of Minority Health's web-based A Physician's Guide to Culturally Competent Care. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians endorse this program, which provides up to 9.0 hours of category 1 AMA credits at no cost.