Reducing COVID-19 Health Disparities for Spanish Speakers in the U.S.

Reducing COVID-19 Health Disparities for Spanish Speakers_Hispanics Make Up Over 34% of U.S. Coronavirus Cases

COVID-19 Health Disparities: Hispanics Make Up 1/3 of U.S. Coronavirus CasesAs of June 22nd, there were at least 2,275,645 cases of coronavirus in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 119,923 people have died in the country after contracting the virus. Hispanics and Latinos make up 18.3% of the United States population, but according to recent reports, they account for disproportionate rates COVID-19 cases, making up 34.3% of confirmed cases.

As we continue to deal with the coronavirus health crisis across the country, it’s important to look at how language barriers and health care disparities are connected, the impact they have on patient care, and how language interpretation and translation services can help reduce these disparities to slow the spread of COVID-19 in limited English proficient communities.


How Language Barriers Contribute to Health Disparities 

Physical Harm Experienced From Adverse Events by English-Speaking and LEP Patients

9% of the United States population is at risk for an adverse patient safety event as the result of a language discrepancy. Research studies have documented that the safety and healthcare quality of LEP patients can be diminished due to language barriers and that they experience higher rates of physical harm from adverse events.

Medical Interpretation and Patient Safety: Types of Physical Harm Experienced From Adverse Events by English-Speaking and LEP 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)


COVID-19 Disproportionately Affects Communities of Color      

An analysis by NPR of data collected by the COVID Racial Tracker (Antiracist Research & Policy Center and the COVID Tracking Project) compares each racial or ethnic group’s share of infections or deaths with their share of the population. The data shows:

  • Nationally, African-American deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater. 
  • In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it’s more than four times greater. 
  • White deaths from COVID-19 are lower than their share of the population in 37 states and the District of Columbia. 

Source: NPR, Hispanics and Latinos Test Positive For The Coronavirus At Disproportionate Rates In Nearly Every State


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 34.3% of people with confirmed COVID-19 cases are Hispanic/Latino.

Of data collected from 1,952,347 people, race/ethnicity was only available for 48.1%, and the percentage of reported cases that include race/ethnicity is increasing.

COVID-19 Cases by Race Ethnicity

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Cases in the United States by Race/Ethnicity (June 22, 2020)


Why are Latinos and Hispanics Disproportionately Affected by COVID-19?

According to the CDC, there are several factors that may make members of racial and ethnic minority groups especially vulnerable in public health emergencies like outbreaks of COVID-19. Some contributing factors may include living conditions, work environments, exposure to pollution, and lower access to care, including language barriers.

Language barriers contribute to health and healthcare disparities for limited English speaking populations.

The United States has the second-highest concentration of Spanish speakers in the world (roughly 53 million people, including 41 million native Spanish speakers). Although Spanish speakers account for 64% of the United States’ total LEP population, they are less likely than English speakers to receive critical information, such as public health notices, in Spanish.



How Language Barriers Impact Patient Safety

    1. Image Source: The Joint Commission: Sentinel Event Statistics, 2014.

      According to The Joint Commission, miscommunication is the third most frequently identified root cause of sentinel events. 21% of sentinel events are caused by miscommunication.


    1. 9% of the United States population is at risk for an adverse patient safety event as the result of a language discrepancy. Research suggests that LEP patients are more frequently affected by adverse events that are often caused by communication problems and that these adverse events are more likely to result in serious harm for LEP patients than English-speaking patients.


  1. Studies show that LEP patients experience higher rates of physical harm from adverse events. About 49.1% of limited English proficient patient adverse events involved some physical harm whereas only 29.5% of adverse events for patients who speak English resulted in physical harm. A pilot study examining the differences in the characteristics of adverse events between English speaking patients and patients with limited English proficiency in US hospitals also found that adverse events that occurred to limited English proficient patients were also more likely to be the result of communication errors.


How Language Access Can Reduce Health Disparities for COVID-19

Language Access in Health Care

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.


Increase Translated Materials in Spanish for Prevention and Care

Healthcare translations are written translations prepared for numerous healthcare fields. Translated materials play a crucial role in helping healthcare professionals communicate effectively with limited English proficient (LEP) patients. Patients who are limited in their use of the English language also must be able to fully understand their health condition, treatment, and follow-up instructions. In addition to healthcare facilities, providing public health notices, instructions, prevention information, and contact tracing communications in Spanish is vital.


Increase Language Access for Contact Tracing

Contact tracing is part of the process of supporting patients and warning contacts of exposure in order to stop chains of transmission. Contact tracing prevents further spread of COVID-19 through:

  • Tracing and monitoring contacts of infected people
  • Notifying contacts of exposure
  • Supporting the safe, sustainable and effective quarantine of contacts
  • Preventing additional transmission

In order to effectively support limited English communities through contact tracing, information must be provided in the language needed to communicate with the patient and contacts.

10 Ways Professional Interpreters Support High-Quality Patient Care:

  1. Higher levels of patient satisfaction
  2. Reduces miscommunication errors
  3. Compliance with government regulations and standards
  4. Improves efficiency
  5. Increases productivity and staff adoption
  6. Along with VRI, telephonic interpretation provides a fast response for urgent or emergency situations.
  7. Allows for a higher quality of clinical care
  8. A greater comprehension of diagnoses and follow up care instructions
  9. Lower rates of readmission
  10. Reduces staff frustration

Studies have demonstrated that patients with LEP suffer more adverse events than their English-speaking counterparts in health care. In addition, patients with LEP also have higher rates of readmission and report more dissatisfaction about their care and communication with clinicians compared with patients who speak English. The use of professional medical interpreters has been shown to decrease these disparities.

Studies from Health Services Research have found the use of a qualified medical interpreter to have a positive impact on patient care. “Use of professional interpreters is associated with improved clinical care more than the use of ad hoc interpreters, and professional interpreters appear to raise the quality of clinical care for Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients to approach or equal that for patients without language barriers.”

Language Access Solutions: How Telelanguage Can Help

Qualified medical interpreters are available 24/7, 365 days a year to overcome language and cultural barriers to ensure patient communication – at every step of a patient’s journey. 70% of Telelanguage clients are health care entities, and we have extensive experience in multiple areas that require the use of medical interpreters and government interpreters.

Health Care Organizations We Help

  • Piloting New Video Remote Interpretation Services | TelelanguageHospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Telehealth
  • Urgent Cares
  • Emergency Departments
  • Health Insurance
  • Medicare Health Plans
  • Nursing Homes
  • Private Practices
  • Clinics
  • Community Health Centers
  • Home Health Care
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Government Organizations
  • 9-1-1 Emergency Services
  • Public Health Agencies
  • Contact Tracing Centers


Health Care Language Services to Fit Your Needs

When language barriers arise in health care settings, you need a language services provider that can respond quickly to the unique needs of your organization. Telelanguage Healthcare Interpretation and Translation Services provide the solutions you need to improve language access at every step of the patient journey. Certified Medical interpreters are available 24/7/365 days a year.


  • Telephonic Interpretation
  • Video Remote Interpretation
  • On-Site Interpretation
  • Document Translation of vital forms, and notifications


Telephonic Interpretation

Over-the-Phone Interpretation is an on-demand, remote interpreting service that offers a fast response when urgent or unexpected language barriers come up.

Available at a low per-minute rate, Telephonic Interpreting allows health care providers to connect to an interpreter in seconds, in over 350 languages. Telelanguage offers the fastest connect times in the industry with an average connect time of 7 seconds, and is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

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.


Benefits of Video Remote Interpreting. Download the Free Whitepaper!


For health care providers utilizing telehealth technology or video conferencing, VRI allows you to easily connect to a live, medically-trained video interpreter in seconds, adding visual support of your interpreter to help the conversation for you and your patients.

Simple, seamless, and secure, Telelanguage’s robust Video Remote Interpretation platform connects your LEP patients to certified medical interpreters through one simple application in seconds, accessible from any PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. 

Translation Services

Telelanguage has the capacity to translate documents, including COVID-19 communications, from English to over 100 target languages and vice versa. Telelanguage only uses Translators that have Native Fluency in both the Target Language and English, and all translations are performed by a subject-matter expert.

Commonly Translated Documents Include:

  • Notices of free language assistance
  • Notice of Eligibility
  • Discharge Instructions
  • Intake Forms
  • Complaint Forms
  • Informed Consent Documents
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Case Report Forms
  • Protocols
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Contracts
  • Prescription Labels
  • COVID-19 Notices


COVID-19 Language Support: No Contract Required Language Services

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Telelanguage is offering all new contracts our language interpretation and translation services with no contract required.

You will pay ONLY for the minutes you use, and there are no minimum requirements. Call 1-888-983-5352, or email [email protected] to begin services today!


Confidentiality and Compliance in Health Care Settings

Confidentiality and security of patient information are critical to language access in any health care setting. Telelanguage provides 100% HIPAA compliant services, providing meaningful language access in in health care settings and compliance to meet the requirements of:

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


Why Health Care Providers are Switching to Telelanguage

  • Medically Trained and Certified Interpreters
  • HIPAA Compliant Services
  • Lower Cost
  • Free Service Trial Programs
  • Best-in-Industry Call Volume Discount Plans
  • Proprietary Technology
  • Quick Interpreter Connect to 350+ Languages


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

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Free Guide to Language Access in Healthcare

Since 1991, Telelanguage has helped thousands of health care organizations to improve language access programs through high-quality medical interpretation services.

This quick eBook resource will help your organization:

  • Determine what interpreting solutions are right for your patients.
  • Understand how quality language access programs positively impact patient care.
  • Maximize your investment in healthcare language services.


Download Your Free Copy!


Telelanguage has been providing customers with the highest quality of language service since 1991. We support over 350 languages, 24x7x365 utilizing 6,000+ U.S.-based interpreters. Telelanguage currently supports over 8,000 accounts around the world – in all industries. Services include over-the-phone, on-site and video remote interpretation, as well as document translations, interpreter management and scheduling, reporting, invoicing, language assessment evaluations, and much more. Contact us for more information about language support for your organization.




COVID-19 Language Support: Learn More about No Contract Language Services


Certified medical interpreters ready to speak in over 350 languages!

Call Telelanguage today at 888-983-5352

Professional interpreter services available telephonically, face to face, or via video remote!