It is important for healthcare professionals across the entire spectrum, from “solo practices” to large Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) to recognize and meet the challenges presented by the changing demographics of the populations they serve. For example, as the United States becomes more diverse, the number of languages routinely spoken by patients has also increased significantly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 60M (60 Million) people in America speak languages other than English at home, while more than “25M do not speak English very well” 1 and such individuals are included in the category called “Limited English Proficiency” or LEP.
This modern reality has significant impact on those providing healthcare services where communications (both written and oral) and language comprehension between patients and their healthcare providers is crucial to patient safety and patient satisfaction. LEP patients are less health-literate and more at risk for drug complications and The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ [within HHS]) has indicated that nearly 9% of the U.S. population are at high-risk for an adverse event due to language barriers! The following statistics are alarming and reveal some of the impact of not addressing the language barriers which are so frequently encountered in healthcare:
- LEP patients have a 63% greater chance of readmission to the hospital
- A typical hospital stay for a LEP patient is 1.5 days longer
- In the emergency room, the LEP patient stays 20% longer
- LEP patients incur 40% higher ER test charges.
The financial and economic impacts for lack of adequate support for LEP patients are very significant:
- Over $15.8B has been spent in litigation and settlements for LEP cases and
- $1.2B has been lost due to poor communication with LEP patients.
It is therefore crucial that healthcare professionals and healthcare administrators enable LEP patients to engage with professional medical interpreters! It’s a fact that well-intentioned but unqualified bilinguals, such as family and friends are simply unable to provide the appropriate level of understanding and comprehension as can be provided by trained, medical interpreters.
LEP patients are:
- 36% more likely to be dissatisfied with care they received
- 47% more likely to not return for care and
- More likely to report overall problems with their care, communications and testing experience.
In an era where quality of care and patient engagement / satisfaction play a big role in an organization’s “Star Ratings,” such statistics are extremely costly to the enterprise in many important ways including both financial and reputation. Therefore, healthcare providers and organization have an imperative to engage with a professional translation company which has crucial domain knowledge (e.g. inwhatlanguage) to improve the quality of care that they ultimately provide, while also improving their “Star Ratings!”
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Resources: 1 GREGORY JUCKETT, MD, MPH, and KENDRA UNGER, MD, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, West Virginia Am Fam Physician. 2014 Oct 1;90(7):476-480.
2 Carrasquillo, O. et. al Impact of language barriers on patient satisfaction in an emergency department J. Gen Intern Med 1999 Feb: 14(2): 82-87.