Improving Diversity in Healthcare and Clinical Trials by The Kaleidoscope Group

Improving Diversity in Healthcare and Clinical Trials

African American/Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as White men, yet they make up less than 5% of participants in the prostate cancer clinical trial.*

If there’s one thing that should make sense to anyone in the healthcare industry, it is the power of preventative care. While that idea makes it into advice given to patients — Healthy eating costs and hurts less than managing high blood pressure with prescription medications, right? —  it seems that the industry itself has failed to learn and apply the lesson when it comes to the health of its organizations and in the diversity of clinical trials.

Diversity at Work

A diverse and talented workforce is an essential component of any successful healthcare organization. Organizational diversity initiatives have proliferated as the U.S. global labor pool and marketplace have become more diverse, and demographics have rapidly shifted. Attracting and recruiting the best and brightest diverse talent can help healthcare organizations better serve diverse patient groups. However, many organizations face a myriad of challenges when attempting to achieve a desired level of diversity within their organizations, particularly within executive ranks.

According to a recent report, there are only 5 African-American CEOs at the nation’s 500 largest companies. And a Forbes report last year indicated that 28% of Fortune 500 firms list just one female director. Meanwhile, studies have shown that it takes at least three female board members to achieve a critical mass for enhancing governance and performance.

Once we accept the fundamental reality that diverse, inclusive organizations will be the industry leaders in a 21st century economy, some simple questions present themselves:

  • Will we be proactive or reactive?
  • Will we take action or allow ourselves to be acted upon?

Great business leaders do more than navigate today’s challenges; they chart the course for and steer their organizations toward tomorrow’s success. Whatever decisions are made about the desired profile and makeup of your organization’s workforce, about the culture of your workplace, it is not only the right, but the responsibility of leaders to be sure those choices are made intentionally to drive long term health of the organization and the patients who place their very lives in your hands.

Diversity in Clinical Trials

A recent story on NPR’s Morning Edition noted that about “40 percent of Americans belong to a racial or ethnic minority, but clinical trial participants tend to be more homogeneous.” Lack of diversity in clinical trials is still a problem, despite that the fact that increased diversity in clinical trials has been on the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) priority list for almost 30 years.

It’s clear that there’s a wide gap in patient diversity while conducting clinical trials. This is impacting the understanding of medical and health issues and the solutions available for all people. Walk into any emergency room and you’re bound to experience a diverse group of patients in race, age, and gender. Yet the medicines available them have largely been untested across this spectrum. African American/Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as White men, yet they make up less than 5% of participants in the prostate cancer clinical trial.

The ABCs of Why Diverse Clinical Trials are Essential Click here to download the Whitepaper: The ABCs of Why Diverse Clinical Trials Are Essential


When it comes to curing what ails a health industry that is diversity deficient and inclusion impaired, healthy organizations will take “one of these.” Others will be forced into “emergency procedures” as they languish in the mourning of organizational failure.

Unconscious Bias vs. Conscious Inclusion

When you rely on Unconscious Bias, your decision making process is… well… It’s not much of a process at all. You work exclusively from your “gut,” which works fine, most of the time.

Your brain is programmed to leverage pattern recognition and informed judgment to make spot decisions with limited information. You rely on your instincts 99.9% of the time — That number feels about right. — and developing our ability to process information and generate solutions in an instant can be invaluable to our organizations, to our teams, and to our careers. That’s a good thing… until it isn’t.

Unfortunately, there is a flipside to this instinct “coin.” There are times when your instincts lead you to make the “wrong” choice, when doing what comes naturally leads to underutilization of the human resources that drive our success.

If that cost goes unchecked, Unconscious Bias will lead to negative health outcomes, talent migration, and in too many cases, emergency (legal) procedures brought by disgruntled employees and dissatisfied patients. Organizations content to take Unconscious Bias face the gravest of organizational side effects: a flat-lined bottom line.

When your organization takes Conscious Inclusion, you practice proactively and intentionally seeking, identifying, and seizing opportunities to leverage organizational diversity and inclusion. Conscious Inclusion helps us check our cultural blind spots. Culture, in this context, references a range of dimensions, from gender to work style, as we drive toward organizational goals.

You might guess that these organizations generate different outcomes and you’d be right. Though there are countless ways those differences might be felt, there are three areas of strategic advantage that will mean the strongest of vital statistics for those who choose a Conscious Inclusion regimen:

  • Getting the best people
  • Keeping the best people
  • Getting the best results from the best people

Some companies will choose Unconscious Bias. Others will simply stumble blindly toward a subpar workforce, marginally engaged, responding to tomorrow’s ailments with yesterday’s cures. If you’re reading this, though, you know your organization needs more, demands more, can be more. You know that there is a way to get to best talent, wholly engaged, bringing patients the best care possible

The 3 C’s

In the case of improving diversity in clinical trials, the biopharmaceutical industry must adopt the 3C’s Model:

  • Commitment: Enhanced trusting relationships with minority patient populations
  • Course: Better marketing strategies to attract wider patient recruitment
  • Competence: Proper education on the effectiveness of treatment.

The biopharmaceutical industry must address unprecedented demographic shifts and expand the study pool by including diverse populations in clinical trials for better outcomes. You can learn much more about the importance of diverse clinical trials by downloading our Whitepaper, below:

The ABCs of Why Diverse Clinical Trials are Essential Click here to download the Whitepaper: The ABCs of Why Diverse Clinical Trials Are Essential



Diversity challenges in healthcare start with the organizations and, as you’ve seen, trickle down to the patients they serve and the medicines and treatments they prescribe. Seeing through a lens of conscious inclusion is a prescription for one ailment, while adopting behaviors of Commitment, Course, and Competence are the first crucial steps towards addressing the sophisticated issue of diversity in clinical trials.

*Acknowledgement to The White Paper on the Dialogues on Diversifying Clinical Trials Conference.