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Joint Commission Health Equity Standards

joint commission health equity standards

The Joint Commission, a leading nonprofit in the healthcare sector, accredits heathcare organizations and programs in the US. Achieving accreditation from the Joint Commission signifies a commitment to delivering safe and high-quality care. One critical aspect of this commitment is adhering to the Joint Commission Health Equity Standards, which emphasize cultural competence.

Here is an overview of Joint Commission standards for cultural competence, followed by ways organizational staff can help meet these standards by job function, including healthcare administrators, clinical staff, and support staff

Overview of the Joint Commission Health Equity Standards

  1. Communication: Healthcare providers must communicate effectively with patients and their families, in the context of their language, culture, or health literacy. Examples:
    1.  Using appropriate interpretation and translation services
    2.  Avoiding medical jargon
    3. Using visual aids to enhance communication

  2. Patient-centered care: Healthcare providers must provide patient-centered care that respects patients' beliefs, values, and cultural backgrounds. Examples:
    1. Recognizing the diversity of patients' backgrounds and experiences
    2. Developing care plans that reflect their unique needs and preferences

  3. Cultural competence training: Healthcare providers must receive ongoing training and education in cultural competence to provide culturally responsive care. Examples:
    1. Developing respect for cultural differences, beliefs, and practices and understanding how these may affect health and patient experience
    2. Learning about systemic and social drivers and the impact of race, ethnicity, and language on health outcomes
    3. Building strategies for recognizing and overcoming implicit bias and providing patient-centered care

  4. Diversity in leadership: Healthcare organizations must have diverse leadership and staff that reflect the communities they serve. Examples:
    1. Promoting diversity and inclusion in hiring, retaining and promoting staff
    2. Valuing the contributions of all employees

  5. Quality improvement: Healthcare organizations must use quality improvement processes to evaluate and improve the cultural competence of their services. Examples:
    1. Regularly assessing the effectiveness of cultural competence interventions
    2. Identifying areas for improvement
    3. Implementing changes to improve care

By applying Joint Commission standards for cultural competence, healthcare providers and organizations can provide culturally responsive care that respects patients' beliefs, values, and cultural backgrounds, leading to better health outcomes

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Strategies for meeting Joint Commission standards for cultural competence by job function

Organizational cultural competence is an ongoing process that requires buy-in and participation from all employees, including administrators, clinical practitioners, and support staff. Here are some ways different job roles within a healthcare organization can improve the overall cultural competence of the organization and help meet Joint Commission Health Equity standards. 

Healthcare administrators

Administrators can help meet Joint Commission Health Equity Standards for cultural competence by ensuring that the organization has procedures in place that promote cultural competence. Strategies for fostering cultural competence include:

  • Collecting race, ethnicity, and language (REAL) data to help understand the challenges and barriers to care in your patient population
  • Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the patient population served by your organization
  • Providing training and education to staff on cultural competence and patient-centered care
  • Developing policies that support culturally competent care, such as providing interpreter services, accommodating dietary restrictions, and respecting patients' cultural and spiritual beliefs and practices
  • Monitoring and evaluating the organization's cultural competence efforts to make sure they are effective and sustainable 

Essential QI courses for healthcare administrators:

Clinical staff

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can help meet Joint Commission Health Equity Standards by providing culturally competent patient care. Strategies for practicing cultural competence in patient interactions include:

  • Understanding patients' cultural backgrounds and their impact on their health and healthcare needs
  • Communicating effectively with patients and their families, using clear language and interpreter services when necessary
  • Providing patient-centered care that respects the patient's cultural beliefs, values, and practices
  • Being aware of potential implicit biases and stereotypes that could affect interactions with patients from different cultures

Essential QI courses for clinical staff:

Support staff

Support staff members are vital in promoting health equity and cultural competence in healthcare organizations. Strategies include: 

  • Providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all patients and their families taking into account their cultural backgrounds
  • Ensuring that signage and other materials are available in languages other than English
  • Assisting with the provision of interpreters and other language services as needed
  • Recognizing and respecting the cultural beliefs and practices of patients and their families

Essential QI courses for support staff:

patient care

Joint Commission Health Equity Standards and patient care

Cultural competence is a critical component of high-quality patient care. That is why the Joint Commission has specific health equity and cultural competence standards to ensure that accredited organizations meet safety and quality measures. To operate at the highest level of care, address health disparities, and establish a culture of health equity, healthcare organizations must ensure that their policies and procedures promote cultural competence and that their staff receives the training and support they need to provide culturally competent care to all patients.

By working together, hospital administrators, clinical staff, and support staff can create an inclusive and welcoming environment that meets the needs of all patients and their families—and the Joint Commission Health Equity Standards. 

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