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Cross-cultural Interactions in the Medical Field


  1. To determine the significance of effective cross-cultural interactions between patients and practitioners.
  2. To identify challenges experienced by health workers and patients in cross-cultural encounters.
  3. To establish strategies that can address the challenges in cross-cultural care.

The current societal background of cultural diversity necessitates interaction within clinical encounters to be increasingly influenced by ethnic, linguistic, and cultural complexities. Patient-practitioner interactions are critical in the delivery of medical care services globally. The administration of diagnostic testing or treatments without efficient communication with patients results in undesired health outcomes. Cultural diversity is regarded as a contributory factor to health disparities and miscommunication within health care settings. Taking into account, the increasing globalization in the medical field and patient-practitioner interactions within multicultural contexts, it is imperative that health programs target to provide efficient communication strategies that empower medical personnel to effectively communicate with patients from different linguistic and ethno-cultural backgrounds.

Complete cultural competency, sensitivity and awareness associated with medical care is crucial because even general ideologies on health care and illness imply different connotations to diverse groups of individuals. Cultural competent health care has significant benefits comprising appropriate diagnostic testing and screening, increased adherence to medical advice, an increase in health care-seeking behavior, and extended access to high-qualified medical personnel. Medical personnel trained on cultural issues should identify qualities of culturally competent health settings, demonstrate awareness of the central function of culture in medical care, be responsive to the variations in health behaviors and values of diverse populations and interact efficiently with health staff from diverse cultures (Green et.al 2017). In essence, the knowledge of cultures is significant in enabling health personnel to provide improvised care and avoid any misunderstandings.

Multiple aspects are identified to contribute to inequalities in healthcare between individuals of different ethnicities and cultures. Issues that are particularly sensitive to the patient’s welfare may result in the complete breakdown in the patient-practitioner relationship. Barriers to the provision of cross-cultural care constitute the lack of resources to provide culturally appropriate care, biases/prejudices, and diversity in patient populations (Hart & Mareno, 2014). Inadequate expertise on patients’ cultural differences, level of knowledge and preferences hinders the successful integration of cross-cultural care. Cultural and social differences between practitioners and patients may pose significant effects if not handled effectively. The distinctive perspectives of the two parties define each one of them, and their diverse perceptions can undermine the cooperation and trust required for a successful patient-practitioner relationship. Since their social contexts directly influence the manifestations of a patient’s illness. Different health beliefs pose a challenge in clinical encounters. Failure to examine a patient’s cultural information, especially if she or he has a cultural background that is different from that of the practitioner, may result in the practitioner having misperceptions about the patient and the patient being dissatisfied. The implications of devaluing cross-cultural care may be severe. Most cross-cultural encounters may generate mistrust; however, it constantly arises from the fear of prejudice based on ethnicity or race. Bias or prejudices are significant in limiting the access to health care, the utilization of medical services, and health outcomes among various groups. Language barriers also have an impact on cross-cultural interactions in the medical field. Illiteracy and language barriers impede the ability to obtain informed consent. Static cultural concepts that lower individual behavior and encourage stereotyping are frequently observed in medical settings (Würth et.al.,2018). Concerns on the delivery of equal medical services to all patients are considered a society’s responsibility to offset inequities that result in health disparities of various social groups. Cultural orientation is a source of assessor idiosyncrasy and consequential variations in the interpretation of communication behaviors (Wilby et al., 2017). On the basis of communication preferences that relate to cultural orientations, it is expected that health workers are likely to favor communication behaviors that are specific to their cultural orientations.

Cross-cultural competency programs appear to be the most effective. Nevertheless, the definitions of behavioral assessments and cultural competency must be evaluated (Filmer et.al., 2018). Additionally, the exploration of patients’ socioeconomic status, educational background, and literacy are essential to delivering quality health care services. The health provider does not necessarily require to know each patient’s preferences. However, he or she can explore how patients within particular social contexts prefer to have their information presented. Efficient communication, respect, and open-mindedness are vital. The practitioner should presume the responsibility of efficient communication since he or she is in a position of determining the course of the session. Therefore, the practitioner should examine the patient’s cultural values and how they are associated with the medical issue.

Conclusively, culturally competent health care is an ethical imperative and professional mandate. The concepts of cross-culture care should be inter-woven with care in order to achieve positive outcomes on the health status of different patient populations. A culturally competent orientation requires the incorporation of attributes such as sensitivity, open-mindedness, trust, and respect. The description of health workers’ perceptions on challenges to offering cross-cultural care is the prior phase in redesigning medical care delivery practices.




Filmer, T., & Herbig, B. (2018). Effectiveness of Interventions Teaching Cross-Cultural Competencies to Health-Related Professionals With Work Experience: A Systematic Review. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 38(3), 213-221.

Green, A. R., Chun, M. B., Cervantes, M. C., Nudel, J. D., Duong, J. V., Krupat, E., & Betancourt, J. R. (2017). Measuring medical students’ preparedness and skills to provide cross-cultural care. Health equity, 1(1), 15-22.

Hart, P. L., & Mareno, N. (2014). Cultural challenges and barriers through the voices of nurses. Journal of clinical nursing, 23(15-16), 2223-2233.

Wilby, K. J., Govaerts, M. J., Austin, Z., & Dolmans, D. H. (2017). Exploring the influence of cultural orientations on assessment of communication behaviours during patient-practitioner interactions. BMC medical education, 17(1), 61.

Würth, K., Langewitz, W., Reiter-Theil, S., & Schuster, S. (2018). Their view: difficulties and challenges of patients and physicians in cross-cultural encounters and a medical ethics perspective. BMC medical ethics, 19(1), 70.

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