Pharmacies are a vital part of the healthcare industry, and they play a key role in patient health. The role of pharmacists has evolved along with the health care needs of our population, and that includes serving linguistically diverse populations.
Pharmacy language access – including interpretation and translation services – is more important than ever. In fact, the United States Census Bureau reports at least 350 languages spoken in U.S. homes.
Language barriers between limited-English proficient (LEP) patients and pharmacies can present a challenge when a patient has questions about a medication, or the pharmacist needs to provide information to the LEP patient.
An inability to overcome language barriers at the pharmacy can have serious consequences for LEP patients. Providing linguistically and culturally appropriate language access in pharmacies helps improve quality of care, reduces the chances of dosage errors that can pose health risks for patients, and contributes to improved health literacy.
Language Access in Pharmacies: Improved Health Literacy
Health literacy skills are those people use to realize their potential in health situations, and they are required to perform a number of important tasks such as:
- finding information and services,
- communicating needs and preferences and responding to information and services,
- processing the meaning and usefulness of the information and services,
- understanding the options, consequences and context of the information and services, and
- deciding which information and services match their needs and preferences so they can make an informed decision.
In order to ensure quality services for customers, pharmacies must be able to:
- help customers find information and services,
- communicate about prescriptions and answer patient questions,
- communicate about health and healthcare,
- process what people are explicitly and implicitly asking for,
- understand how to provide useful information and services, and
- decide which information and services work best so the patient can make an informed choice.
A study of health literacy in California found that 13.8% of English speakers reported low health literacy, but for those with limited-English proficiency, that number rose to 44.9%. The study found that individuals with both limited-English proficiency and low health literacy are at high risk for poor health, with limited-English proficiency and low health literacy reporting the highest prevalence of poor health (45.1%), followed by limited-English proficiency-only reporting a 41.1% prevalence of poor health.
For many LEP individuals, the inability to communicate in English is a barrier to accessing health information and services. Health information for people with limited-English proficiency needs to be communicated in their preferred language.
Cultural and linguistic competency of health professionals can contribute to health literacy, and that includes communicating in a manner that is linguistically and culturally appropriate. For pharmacy language access, this means that pharmacies must provide limited-English proficient customers with access to qualified interpreters and written translation of prescription labels and instructions.
Commonly Translated Materials for Pharmacies
- Prescription Labels
- Patient Instructions
- Medication Information Materials
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Because most pharmacies in the United States are recipients of federal funds, directly or indirectly, they are subject to Section 1557.
While language barriers present an initial challenge for pharmacies and LEP customers, providing language access in pharmacies via interpreter and translation services has never been more accessible.
Language access in pharmacies reduces the chances of dosage errors. A dedicated language services provider will be able to improve the quality of your language access program to help you better serve LEP customers.
5 Ways Language Access Improves Pharmacy Services
How Telelanguage Can Help
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. It can also be extremely cost-effective in pharmacy settings because no minimum hours or mileage reimbursement are needed to gain access to the interpreter (as might occur with an in-person appointment).
On-site interpretation can be the right solution to support lengthy or complex appointments, or interviews planned in advance, or when many appointments are scheduled close together. If a situation arises where you need an on-site interpreter quickly, Telelanguage can have a certified medical interpreter at a location in as little as 30 minutes.
Over-the-Phone Interpretation is an on-demand, remote interpreting service that offers a fast response when urgent or unexpected language barriers comes up.
Available at a low per-minute rate, Telephonic Interpreting allows pharmacists to connect to an interpreter in seconds, in over 300 languages. Telelanguage offers the fastest connect times in the industry with an average connect time of 7 seconds.
Prescription labels and patient instructions must be provided in the language preferred by the patient. Telelanguage has the capacity to translate documents from English to over 100 target languages and vice versa.
Confidentiality and Compliance for Language Access in Pharmacies
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 pharmacies 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 Pharmacies 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 300+ Languages
Dealing with a health crisis can be stressful for anyone, and significantly more stressful for a patient with whom there is a language barrier. Using qualified medical interpreters reduces stress for LEP patients needing pharmacy services, and can make the experience less intimidating.
It is crucial that LEP patients are able to converse with pharmacists in the language they are familiar with. As pharmacies continue to serve increasingly diverse populations, both culturally and linguistically, improving language access in pharmacies should be a top priority.
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