For many people, the most vulnerable moments in their lives are when they or their loved ones need healthcare. I’ve experienced that helpless feeling firsthand, and I’ve heard similar stories as a member of the board of directors for ECU Health and Easterseals UCP, as well as from support teams at our parent company, Workplace Options. In these moments of crisis, an individual’s experience depends largely on how medical professionals respond.

The patient experience is paramount, yet, many obstacles may arise that influence health outcomes and healthcare costs. This reality prompts me to dive into an essential, but often overlooked, component – the power of inclusive communications.

In response to the growing challenge for senior executives in the healthcare industry nationwide and globally, The Diversity Movement has created a virtual briefing that will take place at noon ET, Wednesday, March 13. Led by expert linguist Judy Ravin and TDM Chief Revenue Officer and Certified Diversity Executive Shelley Willingham, the session will show how culturally competent communication ultimately improves patient experiences and reduces healthcare costs.

An urgent healthcare need

Studies from organizations like National Institutes of Health and Deloitte have established a link between patient experience, profitability and inclusivity. As healthcare organizations seek strategies to improve overall care and financial performance, they are focusing on building inclusive leadership skills to enhance provider and patient belonging, psychological safety and well-being. Inclusive language plays a pivotal role in fostering health equity.

“Imagine a scenario where every patient, regardless of their background or language proficiency, feels not just seen, but truly understood in their healthcare journey,” Willingham says. “We can do more than aspire to this idea. It’s a strategic imperative for healthcare providers to navigate as society becomes more diverse.”

Simultaneously, the American healthcare landscape is transforming, in ways not imagined in earlier generations, which has flipped the script on traditional challenges. For example, nearly a third of physicians in America have international medical training, and many experience English as an additional language. Linguistic diversity is also amplified as nurses who trained outside the U.S. fill jobs to address the ongoing domestic nursing shortage.

From this viewpoint, we see that language barriers present significant challenges in the delivery of care, patient satisfaction, medical employee stress and burnout and, ultimately, the financial well-being of healthcare providers and systems.

Addressing systemic healthcare challenges

My work with leadership teams at the board level has shown that there is a direct correlation between patient satisfaction, provider fulfillment and the overall financial standing of healthcare organizations. It demonstrates that our provider training programs must change with the times, extending beyond language to cultural nuances, diverse perspectives and varied health literacy levels.

With lives on the line somewhere across the globe every single second of every day, there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. However, from TDM’s work with healthcare organizations across the globe, I know for certain that tailoring communications to resonate with diverse cultural backgrounds and linguistic capabilities is a cornerstone of effective patient engagement. The effort will lead to an environment where patients feel acknowledged, fostering a sense of trust and collaboration between healthcare providers and those seeking care.

“To feel safe and capable, people need healthcare environments that are free from stigma and discrimination,” says Jackie Ferguson, author of The Inclusive Language Handbook. “Inclusive language plays a key role in helping to make healthcare settings safe spaces.”


We understand that the value of inclusive language extends beyond patient satisfaction to the very heart of healthcare outcomes. Studies show that patients who feel heard and understood – in other words, feel safe with a sense of belonging – more frequently adhere to their care plans. The payoff is critical when lives hang in the balance, but effective communication also significantly reduces long-term healthcare costs for those who need recurring treatments or other medical services.

In the context of a global healthcare workforce, providers who provide culture-based and inclusive communications training will be better positioned to attract and retain top-tier talent. The demand for skilled medical professionals has already outstripped the supply, so organizations that address these types of skills will become employers of choice, in addition to enhancing their public image and brand value.

“As we strive to address health disparities and enhance patient outcomes, it is essential we recognize language’s central role in this journey,” Ravin explains. “Patients from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds need assurance that their unique perspectives are not lost in translation. Healthcare professionals need to know that their treatments and plans are trusted and valued.”

Building a healthcare environment where language differences do not stand in the way paves the way for more accurate diagnoses, stronger personalized care plans and higher patient satisfaction. In this shared decision-making process, inclusive communications training leads to a win-win: better health outcomes, and, yes, better financial results and a more resilient future.

Please follow this link to register for “Boosting Patient Experience and Profitability Through Inclusive Communication” on Wednesday, March 13 at 12 p.m. ET.

About Donald Thompson

Donald Thompson, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 SE Award winner, founded The Diversity Movement (TDM) to fundamentally transform the modern workplace through diversity-led culture change. TDM was recently acquired by Workplace Options, which brings holistic wellbeing services to more than 80 million people in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe. Recognized by Inc., Fast Company and Forbes, Thompson is author of Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World” and has published widely on leadership and the executive mindset. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics.

Follow him on LinkedIn for updates on news, events and his podcast, or contact him at for executive coaching, speaking engagements or DEI-related content. TDM has created LeaderView, a leadership assessment tool that uses cultural competency as a driver for improving whole team performance. To further explore DEI content and issues impacting your work and life, visit TDM Library, a multimedia resource hub that gives leaders a trusted source of DEI content.