At Froedtert Health, diversity is not just a word tucked into a mission statement or included on a list of company values. It is ingrained into what the healthcare organization’s employers do every day.
That dedication is the direct result of a decision made by CEO Cathy Jacobson to create an organization where “diversity is embedded into everything we do and it is not something in a box that we just need to check off,” said Andres Gonzalez, vice president, chief diversity officer for Froedtert.
A large part of Froedtert’s commitment to diversity is its unconscious-bias program. All Froedtert employees go through the program, which helps participants see that everyone has biases no matter their sex, ethnic background or sexual orientation. The main thing, Gonzalez said, is to recognize those biases and understand how they affect your dealings with patients and other employees.
“When you go through the class, it is like a switch goes on and you realize you have these biases and you learn how to address them,” he said. “You create awareness.”
Froedtert uses three measurements to gauge the success of its diversity work. It tracks readmissions and patients’ ethnicity, race, sex and language preference; breast cancer screenings for black women; and how long women must wait for emergency care from the time they arrive to their admission and from their admission to discharge. If everything is running right, the results should be the same for all patients regardless of their race, sex, ethnicity and language preference, Gonzalez explained.
Froedtert began making diversity more of a priority in 2011, adding it to the organization’s strategic plan. At the start of fiscal 2017, Froedtert’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion started its own five-year strategic plan that supports its mission, vision, values and goals related to diversity. The healthcare provider also last year signed the American Hospital Association’s Health Equity Pledge .
As part of the pledge, U.S. hospitals and health systems commit to work to ensure all patients receive high-quality, equitable and safe care no matter their race, ethnicity or sex.
Gonzalez said Froedtert draws from a diverse pool of possible workers when working to identify and train the next group of leaders. As a result of the organization’s efforts, the percentage of ethnically diverse staff and leaders has increased during the past five years.
“The goal is to have leaders who reflect the community being served,” he said.
In embracing diversity, Froedtert is seeking to be not only a good corporate citizen, but also the healthcare provider of choice and an employer of choice for people in this state and beyond.
“Creating a quality patient experience begins with that first impression patients receive whether it is the staff who care for our facilities or the valet parking their car,” Gonzalez said. “They could be meeting with the best physician in the world, but if they start off with an unpleasant interaction that reflects back on their entire experience.”