Ask the White Guy: The Business Case for Diversity in Healthcare

Question: Have you found it difficult to communicate the business case for diversity in non-traditional industries like healthcare where the customer's choice is directed by an insurance agency versus his/her preference? And, does it make sense to look at the business case from a cost-savings perspective versus profit?

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Question:

Have you found it difficult to communicate the business case for diversity in non-traditional industries like healthcare where the customer's choice is directed by an insurance agency versus his/her preference? And, does it make sense to look at the business case from a cost-savings perspective versus profit?

Answer:

Healthcare is "traditional" for people who are sick. What differs is our perception of healthcare by race and gender. We have vastly different trust levels, which greatly contribute to the multi-billion-dollar gap between healthcare white people and people of color receive.

I recently had a meeting with a hospital association CFO. He dressed me down (yelled, actually) about diversity being irrelevant to his industry. I asserted that trust levels were very different, and the lack of trust that some groups have lead to things like a person not going to a doctor until the cancer metastasizes or their vascular system is damaged by hypertension. This increases costs, making diversity a direct business case for his industry. He (screamed) that he didn't think that there was a trust gap. I challenged him to a bet: We would survey 1,000 of his association's latest patients and tabulate the results by race and gender. If there were no gap, I would pay his favorite charity $5,000. If there was a gap, he would pay the DiversityInc Foundation $5,000.

I never heard from him again.

Screaming may be a good technique with some people, but I spent four months with Staff Sergeant Kerr, United States Marine Corps, before going to flight school. I have since been immune to screaming. During our brief meeting, I did think about helping the CFO avail himself of his association's services but was able to resist the impulse.

Getting back to your question, cost avoidance is a fine business case for all businesses. Better relationships reduce costs ... staff turnover, patient satisfaction, supplier efficiency, etc. Part of good diversity management is also avoiding potential liability in the form of lawsuits.

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Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 18 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

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