The Intersection of Juneteenth and Pride Month Highlights Inequities Inside and Outside of the Hospital | Deloitte US has been saved
By Crystal Williams, senior manager, and Paul Atkins, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting, LLP
Each June, Pride month recognizes and celebrates LGBTQIA+ people around the world. It also recalls the 1969 Stonewall uprising and is an opportunity to raise awareness of issues still facing this community. On June 19, Pride month intersects with Juneteenth—a day that recognizes the end of slavery in the United States and emphasizes education and achievement among Black Americans. This day often extends to a week or even a month in some areas. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing marked with celebrations, picnics, and family gatherings.
Juneteenth and Pride month are tied to important milestones. For those of us who are gay and Black, the intersection of these two events highlights some of the unique challenges that patients, hospital and health system leaders, and employees face every day. Our latest report highlights several leading practices that some health care organizations are implementing to operationalize diversity, equity and inclusion. From a business perspective, addressing racism and other biases to advance health equity can help create a competitive advantage.
I spent six years in the US Air Force and served as a hospital administrator. After leaving the military, I spent more than a decade working in health care, both for Deloitte as well as in industry. Even for someone who lives and breathes health care, navigating the health care system can be challenging.
Last January, my wife and I were expecting our first child. Months earlier, we began searching for an obstetrician to deliver the baby, and a pediatrician to provide well-baby care. Like most new parents, we wanted physicians who were accessible, convenient, and offered high-quality care. We also preferred doctors who were Black and who would be welcoming to same-sex parents. We discovered that you can’t just type “two moms need LGBTQ-friendly Black pediatrician” into a search engine. If you do, it pulls up news articles about pediatricians who refused to see the child of a same-sex couple.
I have a degree in health administration and spent several years with a prestigious East Coast health system. Since joining Deloitte nearly 14 years ago, I have participated in an annual LGBTQIA+ health care workforce conference that Deloitte sponsors. At a recent event, attendees discussed ways that health care employees could self-identify their sexual orientation. It’s usually pretty obvious when someone is Black, or Latino, or Asian. But what about employees who identify as LGBTQIA+? One idea is to create small rainbow stickers that LGBTQIA+ employees could affix to their name badges. LGBTQIA+ patients might feel more comfortable discussing certain topics with those employees. Health systems might also consider including a rainbow icon in their health care directories to help patients identify LGBTQIA+ clinicians. Some people don’t feel comfortable discussing certain health issues with clinicians who don’t know how they identify. As a gay man, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to a doctor about Truvada (or other drugs that prevent HIV) if that doctor doesn’t know how I identify. Clinicians who fully understand their patients can be better equipped to meet their health care needs.
Health systems see DE&I as a top priority
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions recently collaborated with the National Association for Health Service Executives (NAHSE) to create a snapshot of the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives within the health care workforce. We surveyed 105 NAHSE professionals and interviewed 10 NAHSE member organizations who are leading DE&I initiatives in their workforces. During the interviews, we discussed personal DE&I experiences of health care workers. Although health care organizations appear to be moving in the right direction, more work should be done to engrain DE&I in the culture and build on the current momentum. NAHSE is a non-profit association of Black health care executives founded in 1968 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and development of Black health care leaders and elevating the quality of health care services rendered to minority and underserved communities.
Most surveyed health care leaders said they understand that DE&I in the workforce can support quality of care and financial performance goals. However, the vast majority of health system executives and board members are White, even as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are an increasingly larger part of the patient population. Just 14% of hospital board members and 9% of CEOs are minorities, according to the most recent study by the American Hospital Association's Institute for Diversity and Health Equity—a number that is unchanged from 2013. At the same time, BIPOC constitute about a third of hospitals' patients, and that figure is growing.1
The survey data and findings from our interviews showed that while organizations are prioritizing DE&I initiatives in the workforce, more work should be done to engrain it in the culture and build on the current momentum. Executives and board members may not appreciate all of the layers and the full range of obstacles that BIPOC patients and employees face. They may not be considering ways to improve health equity for BIPOC patients who are also queer. Even a gay white executive may not appreciate the experiences of someone who is Black or Brown and LGBTQIA+. Within the Black community, there is often a stigma about homosexuality and transgender. Even in the LGBTQIA+ meetings that Paul mentioned, people are sometimes reluctant to present their full selves. As a result, their full voices may never be heard.
Health care executives should not try to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce just because it’s the right thing to do. They should do it because it can make their talent pools deeper, their collective experiences broader, and their organizations stronger.
1. Racism still a problem in healthcare’s C-suite, Modern HealthCare, February 24, 2018