Hospital Language Services: 3 Reasons to Prioritize Quality Over Price

Hospital Language Services: Why Quality is More Important Than Price

Hospital-240x240-TLFor many hospitals and healthcare systems in need of language services, price is the main consideration when searching for language support. While it can be tempting to award language interpretation and written translation services to the cheapest interpreting solution, it’s important to understand how hospital language services impact key quality metrics like patient satisfaction scores, rates of readmission, and compliance.

Why should hospitals prioritize quality over price? The cost of low-quality language services can result in fines, non-reimbursements, and even lawsuits, which can cost organizations far more than they will save by awarding contracts based solely on price. While pricing should be a consideration, choosing a quality language services partner with a proven track record can save more in the long run.

In this post, we’ll go over three top concerns for hospitals and healthcare organizations. We’ll look at the positive impact of quality language services in these areas, and the cost of not improving in these areas…


The Overall Impact of Quality Hospital Language Services

Limited English proficient (LEP) patients are at higher risk of readmission, longer length of stay, and adverse events. Quality of language services is the most important consideration for language support in healthcare settings and is especially relevant for supporting positive customer experiences and health outcomes.

According to a report from American Institute for Research, the implementation of appropriate Language Access Services in healthcare settings can serve to:

  • Increase access to care
  • Improve quality of care, health outcomes, and health status
  • Increase patient satisfaction
  • Enhance or ensure appropriate resource utilization


3 Key Reasons to Provide High-Quality Hospital Language Services 


1. Section 1557 Compliance

Section 1557 Compliance

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to health programs and activities, “any part of which is receiving Federal financial assistance.” Therefore, hospitals, clinics, and physician practices receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement must comply with the law. 


An important change in the Department of Health and Human Resources (HRR) ruling applies to the use and standard of interpreters for LEP patients. Formerly mandating “competent” interpreters (2003), the new ruling now requires “qualified” interpreters, meaning the use of a qualified interpreter should be considered the standard in healthcare for LEP patients. It also requires providers to post notice of nondiscrimination and to ensure that language services adhere to quality standards. 

Failure to comply with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act can be extremely costly for healthcare systems, resulting in:


  1. Investigation of complaints by HHS Office of Civil Rights
  2. Fines
  3. Loss of federal funding and false claims liability
  4. Private rights of action (private lawsuits)


How Can Healthcare Providers Provide a Qualified Interpreter for LEP Patients?

For compliance with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare providers should consider healthcare and medical interpreters with the following qualifications:

Interpreters Should Adhere to a Code of Ethics

A trained and qualified interpreter in healthcare must adhere to ethical standards, such as client confidentiality.

Interpreters Should Have Formal Training and Testing

The change for language interpreters from “competent” to “qualified” requires having a qualification. Simply using a bilingual or multilingual person may not be considered “qualified” unless the individual has relevant training and proficiency testing to interpret.

Interpreters Should Be Recognized as Professional

HHS deters providers from reliance on bilingual staff (if their stated job duties do NOT include interpreting).

Additionally, qualified interpreter, such as those at Telelanguage, will have demonstrated interpreter will have demonstrated proficiency in speaking and understanding both spoken English and at least one other spoken language and can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially with LEP individuals in their primary language using any necessary specialized vocabulary and phraseology.


2. Reducing Readmission Rates

Reducing Readmission Rates

Section 3025 of the Affordable Care Act added section 1886(q) to the Social Security Act establishing the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which requires CMS to reduce payments to IPPS hospitals with excess readmissions.

In 2015, Medicare fined a record 2,610 hospitals with readmission penalties.

LEP patients are prone to higher rates of readmission than English-speaking patients. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that in addition to high readmission rates, racial and ethnic minorities (including LEP patients) also present a higher degree of certain health-related concerns, including:


  • An increased risk of longer stays at the hospital
  • Higher rates of anxiety and depression
  • Less access to primary care providers
  • Inadequate follow-up care after discharge
  • Multiple co-morbidities
  • Socioeconomic pressure (e.g. underinsurance, social isolation, housing and food security issues, lack of access to transportation, lack of employment opportunities)


Language barriers in hospital settings can contribute to avoidable readmissions, including lower rates of outpatient follow-up, use of preventive services, medication adherence, and understanding discharge diagnosis and instructions. The CMS Guide to Reducing Disparities in Readmissions recommends the following for reducing readmission rates for LEP patients. 


  • Ensure that patients with limited English proficiency are aware of and have access to
    professional medical interpreter services during inpatient stays, during discharge, and when
    accessing post-hospital care.
  • Communicate discharge instructions in the patient’s preferred language. Provide written
    materials at an appropriate literacy level (5th grade or lower, as recommended by the Joint
    Commission) and in the preferred language of the patient and/or caregiver. Simply translating
    written instructions may be insufficient to ensure patient understanding.
  • Include family members and/or caregivers in care as appropriate, work with members of the
    extended care team (such as community health workers), and coordinate with traditional
    healers to help facilitate culturally competent care for patients with limited English proficiency


The Impact of Quality Language Services on Length of Stay and Readmission Rates 


According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), LEP patients receiving quality language interpretation has a positive impact on length of stay and reducing rates of readmission:

  • Patients spent 1.5 days fewer in the hospital when an interpreter is provided
  • Patients receiving interpretation at admission and discharge are less likely to be readmitted within 30 days.
  • Interpreter services result in shorter length of stay in Emergency Departments



3. Patient Satisfaction 

Patient Satisfaction

HCAHPS scores help determine reimbursement levels for hospitals and healthcare organizations, and negative patient experiences can result in lower scores that affect reimbursement levels. For this reason, it’s critical that healthcare organizations invest in quality language services to improve HCAHPS scores and patient satisfaction. 


Quality Language Services and LEP Patient Experience and HCAHPS Scores

  • Hospitals with greater cultural competency have better HCAHPS scores for doctor communication, hospital rating, and hospital recommendation
  • LEP patients in the emergency department report higher satisfaction (96%) with their communication in the ER when provided a professional than LEP patients who did not receive professional interpretation (26%)



Get More From Your Hospital Language Services Partner with Telelanguage

When language barriers arise in healthcare settings, you need support you can trust to protect the LEP patient experience. At Telelanguage, we provide that support with a 24/7 one-point-of-contact account management system. Over 70% of our current client base are healthcare entities. Quality of language services ensures safety, accuracy, and efficiency when caring for patients in healthcare settings. Telelanguage offers healthcare clients complete language services in over 300 languages to communicate with LEP patients:

  • Superior-trained and certified medical interpreters
  • Available 24/7, 365 days a year telephonically, on-site, and via video remote
  • Translation of vital documents, patient forms, and notices
  • Fastest interpreter connect times in the industry
  • Leading-edge proprietary interpretation technology
  • Best medically trained interpreters in the emergency healthcare industry
  • Free Cultural Awareness training to help organizations work effectively LEP patients


Telelanguage Helps Clients Achieve and Maintain Compliance

  • Affordable Care Act, Section 1557 (ACA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI)
  • Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA)
  • The Joint Commission
  • Protected Health Information (PHI)


Telelanguage Commitment for Healthcare Clients

Telelanguage works with over 1,400 healthcare entities to improve language access programs and overall patient satisfaction while reducing your interpretation costs.

1.) Zero hidden fees: One low per-minute rate includes paper and/or electronic invoicing, one-second increment billing, no monthly minimums, and free third party dialing.

2.) Call Volume Discount Plans are considered to be the best in the industry (available only to our Healthcare clients).

3.) Contract renewal policy guarantees zero rate increases.

4.) All interpreter reference materials such as language posters, dialing instructions, tips on effective communication with LEP including dual handset phones are all provided for Free.

5.) Telelanguage offers Free Service Trial Programs where you can test our services before entering into an agreement.

Language Access in Healthcare: Health Care Interpretation Services eBook | Telelanguage

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Having dependable access to language services allows healthcare professionals to provide better service, and shows the community you serve that you are committed to patient-centered care. It will also save time so you and your staff can be more productive when communicating through an interpreter with limited-English proficient patients.

Want to learn more about how to improve patient communication and satisfaction? Optimize star rating? Need help achieving or maintain compliance with government standards? Get your free eBook to Language Access in Healthcare!


The Healthcare Interpretation Guide: Language Access for a Better Patient Experience! [Download Your Free Copy!]


Choosing quality in a language services partner for your hospital language services allows you to optimize interpretation cost while increasing overall patient satisfaction, reducing readmission rates, and achieving compliance with government regulations and quality standards. Create a more quality LEP patient experience. Contact Telelanguage to learn how our language access programs can benefit your organization.

Certified medical interpreters ready to speak in over 300 languages!

Call us today at 1-888-983-5352

Quality hospital language services are available over-the-phone, face to face, or via video remote!

 Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals | TelelanguageDownload the Free eBook: Language Access in Healthcare