Why Language Access is Crucial to Patient Centered Care

Patient Centered Care and Language Access in Healthcare
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How does language interpretation affect a Patient Centered Care approach to healthcare? You’ve heard the old adage “The customer is always right”. In our world of technology, where information is accessible to consumers at the touch of a button, this mindset has never been more relevant for businesses. But what about the healthcare industry? Does the doctor-centric, provider-centric model still rule the world of medical care?  Current Patient Centered Care for Health Care: Language Accessestimates put U.S. healthcare spending at approximately 15% of GDP, which is the highest in the world!

Shifts in healthcare reform have enabled patients to become more involved in their care and in the decision-making process regarding care options. The healthcare industry is, in fact, moving toward patient centered care.

What is Patient Centered Care?

The (IOM) Institute of Medicine defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”


4 Reasons Why Language Access is Crucial to Patient Centered Care:


1. Language Diversity in the U.S. Spotlights the Need for Language Access

Did you know the U.S. Census Bureau reports over 350 languages spoken in United States homes? Or that over 25 million people in the United States are considered to be Limited-English Proficient? While the Section 1557 ruling by Health and Human Services (HHS) elevated the level of language access that hospitals and government funded healthcare programs must offer LEP patients, in order to attain a truly patient centered care approach, ensuring the highest quality language access for patients and consumers is key.  


2. The 8 Picker Principles of Patient Centered Care

Dimensions of patient-centered care in research conducted by the Picker Institute and Harvard Medical School are defined by  The Eight Picker Principles of Patient-Centered Care, which include:

  • Respect for patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs
  • Coordination and integration of care
  • Information, communication and education
  • Physical comfort
  • Emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety
  • Involvement of family and friends
  • Continuity and transition
  • Access to care

Aimed at providing a better experience for healthcare consumers and patients, providing excellent language access programs is imperative for LEP and NES populations at every step of the 8 guiding principles.


3. Eliminating Language Barriers Reduces Patient Safety Events

Communication problems increase if language barriers are present, and if proper language support is not available, the risk of patient safety events greatly increases. Research suggests that Limited-English Proficient (LEP) patients are more likely than English-speaking (ES) patients to experience safety events caused by communication errors. The root causes of patient safety events for LEP patients are related to communication and lack of use of qualified medical interpreters. Using Certified Medical Interpreters who are trained in medical terminology will decrease communication problems that can cause safety events.


4. Improving Language Access May Increase Overall Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS scores.

Removing language barriers can increase patient satisfaction and encourage brand loyalty. Communication and information are important factors that can affect HCAHPS ratings for hospitals. Communication with doctors and nurses, the responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, medication information and communication, discharge information, and transition of care are all areas of rating that can be improved by providing appropriate language access and professional, certified interpreters.


As the healthcare industry continues to evolve and shift toward this focus of patient centered care, improving language services should be a priority for healthcare organizations.


Telelanguage has been a leading provider of hospital language services since 1991, and we believe that all healthcare organizations should have affordable access to the best-qualified language service support. Ask us about Special Low Rates for Section 1557 Compliance.

Certified medical interpreters ready to speak in over 300 languages!

Call Telelanguage today at 1-888-983-5352

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