Improve the Way Hospitals Communicate with Non-English Speaking Patients

Guest post by David Fetterolf, president, Stratus Video Interpreting.

David Fetterolf
David Fetterolf

By 2050, the world population will grow to more than nine billion people, according to the U.S. Census. As our world grows more diverse, so do the languages associated with different populations. Today, there are at least 6,909 distinct, known languages, and as globalization continues to grow, the number of non-native English speaking people living in the United States will grow in parallel. For the healthcare industry, this means hospitals and health systems must think about how this plays into patient engagement and care. Communication is crucial to managing patient relationships, caring for patients and working with their families to follow treatment plans correctly.

U.S. law requires hospitals to provide medically trained interpreters for patients with limited-English proficiency. This requirement aims to bridge the patients’ needs with how physicians plan to care for these needs.

How do healthcare organizations acquire interpreters?

When it comes to providing interpretive services, healthcare organizations have several options. Some hospitals that have significant limited English proficiency (LEP) populations keep interpreters on staff. Others rely on relationships with interpretation agencies to bring in interpreters as needed. Many facilities use remote, on-demand interpreters either over-the-phone or on video. More often than not a hospital will rely on a combination of these resources.

Perhaps the most important component of any language access network in healthcare is agility. Take the incoming Syrian refugee population – suddenly Arabic interpreters are in demand in areas they never worked in before. Healthcare facilities have to remain nimble to meet their patients’ needs. Interpretation needs can change over night, and hospitals need to be ready to respond.

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