Responding to organizational and community needs, health care systems are elevating and expanding their diversity efforts.

Author: Paula Robinson

Previously a less influential role most often at the Director or Vice President level and reporting up through HR functional leadership to the CHRO, the diversity leader increasingly now reports to the CEO and the Board of Directors. A successful diversity strategy is seen as key to the health care mission, while conferring a competitive advantage, especially given the trends for market consolidation, emphasis on patient satisfaction, and social change movements.

The approach to diversity strategy has greatly evolved in the last twenty years and is no longer just focused on the traditional data points tracked for EEOC compliance and to mitigate litigation risks. Prominent and subtle equitable practices, in the workplace and during provision of patient care, are seen as key to building value-based programs, such as population health management, and to developing the organization’s brand and culture.

Chief Diversity Officers lead the creation of a respectful and inclusive culture. They track and are accountable for the impact of all policies across all functions enterprise-wide, now for a large set of attributes and affinity characteristics.


Chief Diversity Officers lead and collaborate across all functional areas to develop and implement enterprise-wide strategies involving:

  • Executive team and Board/Trustee recruitment and development
  • Organizational culture
  • Hiring and employment
  • Talent development and succession
  • Pay equity
  • Employee and Physician satisfaction
  • Patient access
  • Health care quality and addressing inequities of care
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Brand, communications, and marketing
  • Community relations
  • Vendor diversity

Health systems are key institutions, among the largest employers, and Chief Diversity Officers often serve with elected, business, and community leaders from a city, state, and regional perspective to attend to in-the-moment issues, addressing community concerns expressed through social protest or other methods.  For these issues of such prominent concern, they are often the face of accountability to the community at large.

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