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Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine: How to Deliver Culturally Competent Care


Embracing Eastern and Western medicine practices is crucial in delivering the best healthcare outcomes.

Combining Eastern and Western medicine is a great way to establish culturally competent care. © Meeko Media - stock.adobe.com

Combining Eastern and Western medicine is a great way to establish culturally competent care. © Meeko Media - stock.adobe.com

Eastern and Western medicine are often considered opposing practices. Most people consider Eastern medicine to be preventative, holistic, and natural, whereas Western medicine is seen as reactive, diagnostic, and clinical. While these things may be true, the reality is that one approach is not better than the other. In fact, they actually work really well together.

Various studies point to the benefits of combining Eastern and Western medicine practices. PubMed Central says acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine, is more effective when used with conventional medical treatments to treat lower back pain. Another study says blending Eastern medicine, Tuina, with routine treatments helps improve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

Blending Eastern and Western medicine practices helps physicians deliver well-rounded patient treatments. It is also an effective way to ensure that patients from all cultural backgrounds, races, and ethnicities receive equal treatment. For years, we’ve seen many forms of discrimination in the medical field, which has only declined the quality of care and created issues for a cross-cultural community. Combining Eastern and Western medicine is a great way to establish culturally competent care, which is sometimes known as culturally sensitive care.

How to Provide Culturally Competent Care

What is culturally sensitive care? Culturally competent healthcare facilities provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors and tailor services according to patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs. Cultural competency means acknowledging the importance of culture, recognizing the potential impact of differences, and incorporating cross-cultural services to better meet patients’ needs. Ultimately, embracing cultural competency is the key to reducing healthcare disparities.

Providing culturally competent care helps ensure that patients receive the best possible care and that their unique needs and preferences are respected. Here are some culturally competent care examples:

1. Offer cultural awareness training. Healthcare facilities may offer cultural awareness training to their employees to promote understanding of different cultures and how each one views the healthcare system.

2. Incorporate culture-specific attitudes and values into health promotion tools. This can help healthcare facilities effectively engage patients from diverse cultural backgrounds.

3. Expand linguistic competency. Healthcare facilities should ensure that patients with limited English proficiency can access clinical encounters, appointment desks, medical billing, written materials, and other medical services.

4. Provide interpreter services. Some hospitals will provide interpreter services for patients whose primary language is American Sign Language.

5. Hire a diverse staff team. When providing culturally competent care, it is important to have people on staff who represent all patient populations. This not only helps patients feel more comfortable in the hospital setting, but can also increase the quality of care.

6. Include family in decision-making. Including family in healthcare decision-making is a great way to cater to minority populations. Many cultures rely heavily on the family unit and can feel helpless when healthcare workers make decisions for families instead of with them.

7. Widen provider expertise. Some hospitals will coordinate with traditional healers to have additional services on hand for patients who feel more comfortable with traditional methods of healing.

8. Strategically place clinics near specific communities. Hospitals that take the time to think through clinic locations can help make healthcare services more accessible to populations that may not have access to transportation services.

9. Partner with community health workers. Using community health workers is a great way to provide additional assistance to patients from other cultures. Community health workers are trained to be a liaison between healthcare workers and patients.

Healthcare facilities must take complete elements from each medicine to become culturally sensitive and deliver the full benefits of both treatments. There are advantages to both medical practices, and leveraging their combined strength will foster a more just healthcare environment that makes all patients feel safe.

Dr. Khaliq Siddiq is the chief medical officer at Clever Care Health Plan and has more than twenty-five years of progressive experience with a strong foundation in medical program management, strategic planning, and team building.

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