Cultural competency available by computer

Physicians soon may be able to get the interactive CME training at their home or office.

By Damon Adams — Posted June 28, 2004

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A training and research organization hopes to expand a computer-based program that teaches doctors and other medical professionals about cultural competence.

Manhattan Cross Cultural Group, formed by three internists, said it had trained more than 1,500 Aetna physicians and nurses through its program, "Quality Interactions: A Patient-Based Approach to Cross-Cultural Care." The program is not yet available to other physicians, but the group is working on agreements to offer the interactive course to more doctors.

"Physicians don't often have time to come to a conference. This works out great because people can do it at home or do it in their office," said Alexander Green, MD, an internist who founded the Manhattan group with Joseph Betancourt, MD, MPH, and Emilio Carrillo, MD, MPH.

The course is designed to give clinicians the knowledge and skills to communicate effectively with culturally diverse patients. The two-hour program presents patient cases in an interactive format.

Clinicians learn to integrate clinical information with cross-cultural information from the patient to improve quality of care and eliminate disparities. Real-time feedback and pre- and post-course tests measure skills covered in the program, which offers CME credit and includes links to evidence-based practice guidelines. Critical Measures, a training and consulting organization, is partnering with the Manhattan group on the project.

"It's based on things that they will see regularly. We give them tips on how best to handle those situations," Dr. Green said.

In September 2003, Aetna began offering the e-learning program to its medical professionals. So far, about 95% of Aetna's physicians and nurses on clinical staff have completed the required course.

"Some of the feedback we have gotten is it has improved confidence and empowered our clinical professionals to identify new approaches for communicating with various ethnic groups," said Aetna spokeswoman Ann Marie Gothard. "It's helped them to understand [patient] expectations."

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