Overcoming Language Barriers in Rural Area Hospitals

Many rural area hospitals in the United States face unique challenges that must be overcome in order to deliver the highest quality care to patients. According to the American Hospital Association, about 20% of Americans live in rural areas without easy access to primary care or specialist medical services. For example, the number of physicians per 10,000 people in rural areas of the United States is 13.1 – compared to 31.2 in urban areas.


Today, we’ll be addressing language access in rural health settings, the challenges many rural healthcare providers face, and how providers can improve communication in rural health clinics and rural area hospitals.  


3 Common Challenges for Rural Area Hospitals and Clinics


Rural-Health-Insert1.) Lower Physician-to-Patient Ratio – Rural areas often experience a lower physician-to-patient ratio than urban areas. This can result in a higher risk for injury-related deaths. Research from the American College of Emergency Physicians found that the risk of injury death was 1.22 times higher in the most rural counties compared with the most urban in an analysis of 1,295,919 injury deaths in 3,141 US counties.


2.) Distance Traveled to Access Care – Rural area patients often have to travel extensive distances to reach a clinic or hospital, and may have a more difficult time accessing care.


3.) Socioeconomic Factors – According to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), rural communities have higher uninsured rates, as well as higher rates of unemployment, leading to lower access to care.


4 Language Access Solutions to Improve Communication with non-English Speaking Populations in Rural Area Hospitals and Clinics:


1.) Outreach – Inform rural communities that language services are available to them. In order to communicate effectively with LEP populations, outreach to community-based organizations, groups, public officials at Federal, State, and Local levels, and education systems brings awareness and helps strengthen the relationship between health care providers and LEP patients in rural areas.  


2.) Translated Materials – Pre-translated vital documents, websites translation, newsletters, and public notices available in the most common languages spoken in the area will improve the ability to communicate effectively with non-English speaking patients, and maximize the efficiency of time and resources in rural health settings that may have limited resources. A language service provider can help rural health entities to determine geographical language needs for document translation.


3.) Use of Technology and Remote Interpreters –   When language barriers arise in health care settings, especially in emergency situations, it is necessary to be able to connect to a remote medical interpreter to respond quickly to the situation. Two modalities for providing remote interpreters are Telephonic Interpretation and Video Remote Interpretation.


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Telephonic Interpretation

Telephonic interpretation is an on-demand, remote interpreting service available in many languages (Telelanguage offers on-demand access to certified medical interpreters in 300+ languages).  Telephone interpreting bridges the language gap in areas where on-site interpreters cannot, such as an emergency situation that requires a fast response, and in rural areas where a local interpreter is not immediately available.


Video Remote Interpreting

Video Remote Interpreting is an on-demand interpretation solution that bridges the gap between over-the-phone interpreting and on-site interpreting. Rural area hospitals can improve LEP patient communication with Video Remote Interpretation (VRI), especially in areas where access to language interpreters may have a longer response time. For patients speaking rare languages, or when a fast response is needed that may require extra visual communication with the interpreter (such as American Language), Video Remote Interpretation may be an appropriate solution to facilitate communication.


4.) Telehealth Services – Rural area hospitals and providers offering telehealth services can also take advantage of telehealth interpreting solutions, like telephonic interpreting and VRI, which offers improved care delivery to support positive health outcomes for limited-English proficient patients. According to Modern Healthcare, telehealth has the power to improve healthcare access, quality of care, and reduce healthcare costs.

As telehealth services expand their reach in the United States, particularly in rural areas, language access continues to be an important factor in providing effective care for limited-English speaking patients.


Language Access Solutions for Rural Area Hospitals

Hospitals that receive federal funding, including Medicare and Medicaid, must provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services, and qualified interpreters. While rural health hospitals (and the communities they serve) face many unique and real challenges, language access doesn’t have to be one of them. Having 24/7 access to certified medical interpreters means that you can communicate with your patients in the language they need, whatever the situation may be.  


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How Telelanguage Can Help:

As a trusted language service provider for 25+ years, Telelanguage knows the importance of language access in rural area health settings. Over 70% of our current clients are health care entities.    

Telelanguage provides healthcare organizations with solutions to easily integrate certified medical interpreters into any medical situation. We offer professional interpretation and translation services to fit the needs of your organization – available 24/7, 365 days a year, covering more than 300 spoken languages and American Sign Language.

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Telelanguage is committed to providing the best interpretation and translation services to improve language access in healthcare – while reducing interpretation costs to our clients. A trusted name in healthcare language services since 1991, we believe that all healthcare organizations should have affordable access to the best-qualified language support. Looking for a more reliable language service provider to help you meet patient needs? Telelanguage can help! Ask us about our Free Service Trial Programs or request a free quote.


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