Overcoming Language Barriers in Patient Care: A Powerful Solution for Healthcare Providers

Blog Posts  |  06 April 2023

Written by: Cheryl Reifsnyder, PhD

A recent U.S. Census Bureau report showed that the number of people in the U.S. speaking a language other than English as their first language reached 67.8 million in 2019—or nearly 1 in 5. This population is growing rapidly, nearly triple the 23.1 million (about 1 in 10) seen in 1980, and most of these reported limited English proficiency (LEP).

Research shows numerous negative effects when patient and clinician do not speak the same language or use a professional medical interpreter during their encounter, including:

The growing prevalence of language barriers has serious implications for all aspects of the Quadruple Aim for high-quality healthcare.

In this article, we share why having access to professional medical interpretation is so vital for today’s healthcare providers—and we show you how any patient or provider encountering language barrier issues can instantly, easily, and cost-effectively eliminate them in a manner compliant with federal regulations.

The benefits of providing language services

U.S. federal regulations require healthcare organizations to provide language services to LEP patients. The Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) standards provide guidelines for implementing language-appropriate care. Language-appropriate care is also one of the developmental guidelines for Healthy People 2030, with the goal of increasing the number of LEP adults who can report that their clinicians provide easy-to-understand explanations for their medical information.

However, research shows that the majority of hospitals and medical practices do not currently comply with federal regulations—despite the extensive evidence demonstrating the numerous benefits of using professional medical interpreters with LEP patients. Research conclusively indicates that working with a professional medical interpreter can help mitigate the disparities in care seen with patients with language barriers. Benefits such as decreased readmission rates; increased use of healthcare services; and improved patient outcomes are seen consistently.

One study showed that using professional medical interpreters appeared to raise the quality of care for LEP patients to near or equal that for patients without language barriers.

Research also shows the high costs of failing to provide professional medical interpretation. One study analyzing malpractice claims in 4 states found that 2.5% of all investigated claims were caused by a failure to provide competent language interpretations. This resulted in high costs financially, but more importantly, resulted in many patients suffering irreparable harm or even death.

Of course, numerous challenges must be overcome to improve the quality of care for LEP patients. The most significant of these challenges has been identified simply as a lack of clinician knowledge of why, how, and when to access professional medical interpretation. The result? Language continues to be a barrier for a growing number of LEP patients.

A solution to patient-provider language barriers

That’s why we are upgrading the Veradigm FollowMyHealth telehealth solution: so it can improve patient satisfaction and communication, regardless of their preferred language. FollowMyHealth will deliver real-time access to professional medical interpretation for more than 240 languages and dialects, including American Sign Language—available now, as a standalone application, or as a fully integrated online interpretation service later this year, from a proven Veradigm Network partner: Voyce.

Veradigm and Voyce have entered into an agreement to directly integrate Voyce’s real-time medical interpretation service into the Veradigm FollowMyHealth patient engagement solution. This integration will enable providers to use Voyce with their LEP patients during both live and remote patient visits, with direct access to live video conferencing with professional medical interpretation at any time, at no cost to the patient. Voyce is a flexible app-driven solution requiring no special equipment.

To learn more about FollowMyHealth’s new medical interpretation option, or to request a demonstration, contact us.

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Voyce   Medical Translation   Veradigm   Language Barriers  

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