The Strain and Impact of the Relationship of Latino Patients and their Providers

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The Strain and Impact of the Relationship of Latino Patients and their Providers

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Today there is a lot of evidence, thanks to years of scientific and sociological research, that there are disparities in health between different races and ethnicities. While there are many factors contributing to these differences, the patient-provider relationship is often overlooked, but can be a root cause for issues in health care. Latinos are one of the groups in the United States that runs into these strained relationships frequently in our health care system. Discrimination is further compounded with the political and societal view of immigration, leading to many Latinos having to deal with the consequences of adverse health effects. There should be more done for Latino patients in order to improve their relationship with their health care providers and hopefully in turn boost their health status. 

   While many of these diseases and conditions are seen across the board for Latinos, you have to understand what makes up the Latino population. This ethnic group encompasses people from the northernmost point of Central America all the way to the southern tip of South America. Since this is such a broad term, there are differences in health between people of different origins within Central and South America. By lumping them all into one group, there is a diminishment in the understanding of health care providers and the rest of society that different groups have particular traits and experiences that can affect each differently. This grouping together does not account for differences that are seen between Hispanics of different origins. If providers don’t take into account the specific factors that distinguish ethnicities, they won’t be able to fully understand and help a patient. This is one of the factors that leads to a strained relationship. 

   Another possible factor leading to   the health disparities and strained patient-provider relationships that Latinos face is the discrimination they experience in health care and society as a whole. Many minority patients do not get the same quality of care as the majority of Americans. This difference in treatment and care leads to medical mistrust for Latinos, prompting some to not listen to the advice of providers. Transparency and trust are the foundation for a successful patient-provider relationship. When there is a lack of either of these, and in some cases influences from other factors, there can be a tension between a patient and the health care provider and can lead to worse health outcomes. 

   One of the last major factors that influence health disparities is diversity training. Many studies have found diversity training is not effective. However, understanding one’s culture, most importantly their native language, can be effective in reducing health disparities. The best 

treatments are found where providers can speak Spanish. “In order to provide high-quality care to this sizable and growing population, it’s vital to consider language and culture.” In the St. Louis community, this can be seen in the difference of care for Latinos at Casa de Salud versus SLU hospitals, and how Casa is more effective in treating Latinos. 

   Casa de Salud’s unique approach to health care and the patient-provider relationship is one of the main causes that they are more effective in treating Latinos than SLU hospitals. First, all providers either are proficient in Spanish or have a translator with them to avoid miscommunication if a patient cannot speak English. This leads to better understanding and acceptance of treatments of patients. Patients also feel more comfortable to ask questions about their conditions or treatments, and a better understanding of their treatment can lead to a better health outcome. Casa de Salud also focuses on the greater community and supporting the Latino population in the St. Louis area by getting involved in their culture and community events. 

   As a future health care professional, I believe it is vital to improve the relationship between Latino patients and providers. Additionally, Latinos make up the fastest growing section of the United States. An increase of the Latino population will lead to a decrease of the overall health status of the United States. A decrease in the nation’s health status can lead to more health care spending, shifts in the economy and many changes in society for the worse. In order to truly combat these potential issues, we must target the root cause of health disparities in the United States with a specific focus on Latino health.