From the Perspective of CEOs: What Motivates Hospitals to Embrace Cultural Competence?


Amy Wilson-Stronks, Sunita Mutha

Sep 2010

The quality domains of patient-centered and equitable care are increasingly relevant to today's healthcare leaders as hospitals care for patients with increasingly diverse cultural and linguistic needs. Hospital leaders face substantial tensions in defining their organization's strategic priorities to improve care for diverse populations with limited resources, increased competition, and complex regulatory and accreditation requirements. We sought to understand what motivates hospitals to focus on and commit resources to supporting the delivery of culturally competent care by analyzing interviews with chief executive officers (CEOs) in 60 hospitals across the United States. Hospital CEOs in our study most often embraced cultural competence efforts because doing so helped them achieve the organization's mission and priorities and/ or meet the needs of a particular patient population. Less often, they were motivated by perceived benefits and legal or regulatory issues. Many CEOs articulated a link between quality and cultural competence, and a smaller number went on to link cultural competence efforts to improved financial outcomes through cost savings, increased market share, and improved efficiency of care. However, the link between quality and cultural competence is still in the early stages. Fortunately, frameworks for hospitals to adopt and steps that hospitals can take to improve the quality of care for all patients have been identified. They begin with a commitment from hospital leaders based on understanding the needs of patients and communities and are propelled by data that reveal the impact of efforts to improve care. Leaders must communicate and shepherd organizations to align the congruence between improvement efforts and business strategies.