More than three hundred languages are spoken in the United States currently
According to the U.S. Bureau of statistics, more than three hundred languages are spoken in the United States currently (Chen, Youdelman, & Brooks, 2007). More than twenty-one percent of U.S. population aged five and above speak other languages other than English at home. Among these, more than 24 million of them do not speak proper English and fall under the Limited English proficient (LEP) category (Clarke & Isphording, 2016). As a result, there have been challenges in the health care system in the provision of patient-centered quality care for the non-English speaking and LEP individuals in America.
Medical miscommunication has severe consequences. For instance, people become sicker as they fail to adequately adhere to treatment regimens because they do not understand English (Karliner et al., 2012). These patients regularly miss their appointments and keep feeling ill because they do not know when to take their medications or follow-up. On the other hand, health professionals may misdiagnose or order too many tests that can be potentially risky for the patient. LEP patients tend to avoid health care because of language barriers.
Understanding the importance of language in creating barriers to health care is crucial in enhancing quality care. Hospitals, health plans, clinics, nursing homes, physicians and other providers must offer “qualified interpreters” to Limited English Proficient patients. The major problem in the language access field is that too often, providers attempt to “get by” without the use of trained interpreters when treating LEP patients. Despite a strong consensus in the academic and research communities about the quality and safety risks of using untrained bilingual staff, adult family members and friends and minor children as interpreters, even today a majority of providers throughout the U.S. continue to use untrained interpreters even when qualified interpreters are readily available in person or remotely via telephone or video remote devices.
The federal and state laws in the States provide a framework that guarantees provision of healthcare to LEP individuals by providing interpreters who assist the healthcare providers in communicating with the individuals.
Language differences create communication barriers, it also affects one’s understanding of words or sentences and puts in jeopardy the treatment and wellbeing of any LEP patient.
This challenge is faced by almost every hospital as not all of them hire professionally trained or nationally certified interpreters. Studies have established that LEP patients’ health is positively impacted in healthcare facilities where Professional Medical Interpretationservices are offered (Chen, Youdelman, & Brooks, 2007).
With the number of LEP increasing, the need for medical interpreters and translators is becoming fundamentally vital.
According to a presentation on “The Effect of Professional Interpretation on Inpatient Length of Stay and Readmission Rates”, when not provided with a qualified translator, LEP patients are likely to suffer adverse medical events twice as high than the English speaking patients. Their average stay in hospital is 0.17 to 1.47 days longer than those proficient in English. (Mary Lindholm, MD. et al.)
Develop a Legendary Language Service Plan:
Language barriers tend to increase the risks to patient safety and reduce effective patient outcomes (Clarke & Isphording, 2016).
Thanks for reading, I hope you find this information useful for this 2019. Do not hesitate in contacting me directly if you have further questions regarding creating a language service plan for your facility.