Diversity improves performance and outcomes

J Natl Med Assoc. 2019 Aug;111(4):383-392. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2019.01.006. Epub 2019 Feb 11.


Background: Research on the effects of increasing workplace diversity has grown substantially. Unfortunately, little is focused on the healthcare industry, leaving organizations to make decisions based on conflicting findings regarding the association of diversity with quality and financial outcomes. To help improve the evidence-based research, this umbrella review summarizes diversity research specific to healthcare. We also look at studies focused on professional skills relevant to healthcare. The goal is to assess the association between diversity, innovation, patient health outcomes, and financial performance.

Methods: Medical and business research indices were searched for diversity studies published since 1999. Only meta-analyses and large-scale studies relating diversity to a financial or quality outcome were included. The research also had to include the healthcare industry or involve a related skill, such as innovation, communication and risk assessment.

Results: Most of the sixteen reviews matching inclusion criteria demonstrated positive associations between diversity, quality and financial performance. Healthcare studies showed patients generally fare better when care was provided by more diverse teams. Professional skills-focused studies generally find improvements to innovation, team communications and improved risk assessment. Financial performance also improved with increased diversity. A diversity-friendly environment was often identified as a key to avoiding frictions that come with change.

Conclusions: Diversity can help organizations improve both patient care quality and financial results. Return on investments in diversity can be maximized when guided deliberately by existing evidence. Future studies set in the healthcare industry, will help leaders better estimate diversity-related benefits in the context of improved health outcomes, productivity and revenue streams, as well as the most efficient paths to achieve these goals.

Keywords: Diversity; Innovation; Outcomes; Profits; Risk.

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Health Facilities*
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Racial Groups
  • Workplace* / organization & administration