As we stated previously, we’ve decided to use The Beat this month to boost the signal of current healthcare leaders and startups who are giving back to their own communities. Even before the recent flood of discriminatory legislation, it wasn’t easy to be an LGBTQ+ startup founder. They are the targets of bias and discrimination, are less likely to be approved for business loans, and receive less than 1% of venture capital funding. Of course, in an intersectional world, non-white, female LGBTQ+ founders are up against even more terrible odds. And yet, they succeed.
Last week, we took a look at QSPACES, an organization that helps LGBTQ+ patients find healthcare providers who understand their needs. But how do providers become the kind of doctors that LGBTQ+ people can trust? What if they want to learn cultural competency, but aren’t sure where to start? The subject of today’s blog, Violet, exists to answer those very questions.
Founded and currently led by: Gaurang Choksi, founder and CEO (he/him)
What services does Violet provide?
Violet is a health equity assessment, education, and credentialing platform for healthcare providers that specifically focuses on improving cultural competency. “Cultural competency” is a slippery concept, but an essential one. Our country is already diverse, and patients – Black, Indigenous, people of color, lesbian, gay, trans, intersex, gender non-conforming, non-English speaking, undocumented, neurodivergent, and more – need providers who understand and value who they are and treat them with respect. While some patients seek out doctors who share their identities, that isn’t a scalable solution for everyone. Currently, there simply aren’t enough diverse clinicians to meet that need.
Why does that matter? Let’s state the problem clearly: too many patients face sexism, racism, homophobia, and other discrimination in the doctor’s office. Sometimes this poor treatment is accidental. Sometimes it is obvious bigotry. Sometimes it appears more insidiously, with providers brushing off a patients’ concerns or changing their prescribing practices based on the patients’ demographics. This happens when providers fail to recognize their implicit bias – bias which is sometimes reinforced in medical school and training settings. But regardless of its source, discrimination instantly shatters any trust between doctor and patient. Discrimination is a predictor for poor healthcare.
Violet’s platform is built to address these problems. First, providers’ cultural competence is assessed through their experience in five different areas:
- Lived experience
- Communities of interest
- Cultural humility
- Educational experience
- Professional experience
Based on those assessments, a personalized curriculum is created for each provider. The lessons include not only e-learnings, resource guides, and case studies, but also self-reflection exercises to encourage humility. The training helps clinicians build skills in many areas, including antiracism, trauma-informed care, inclusive language, implicit bias, and understanding the social determinants of health.
Once providers complete their courses, they are reassessed using the same benchmarking framework as before. Violet also allows organizations to filter their providers by which benchmarks they have met, making it easier to match patients with the right doctor.
What makes Violet special?
Like the other founders we’ve met this month, Violet founder Gaurang Choksi was driven by his own experiences and his belief that all patients deserve good care. Choksi is quoted on the Violet website discussing the “why” behind the company:
As a gay man and an Indian immigrant who grew up on Medicaid, I know the importance and challenges of finding providers that truly understand who we are. Cultural competence impacts every aspect of a patient’s health care journey, from how much they trust their clinicians, to the questions they ask, to their actual health outcomes.
We’re impressed by how Violet’s platform encourages action. The assessments give providers and their employers a baseline to work from. The training courses change the way providers interact with patients and give them the confidence to provide good care. The final benchmarking provides organizations an understanding of their resources. All in all, the platform works to improve patient care without putting the onus on the patient. That’s a true achievement.