Patients select hospitals with language services
By United Language Group
A report published recently in Health Affairs stated that more than a third of the nation’s hospitals did not offer patients language assistance in 2013. I find this is alarming, because health literacy is so important and it’s the law. Based on civil rights law, any hospital receiving federal funds must provide language services for its patients.
Interestingly, while private for-profit hospitals continue to grow in market share, they are the least likely to offer language services. The good news is that there is a huge opportunity for hospitals that are currently falling short on providing language services for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities. Providing these services can help retain and attract patients, by empowering their customers with information in their preferred languages.
According to the study, 60 million people claim a primary language other than English. Spanish speakers alone account for more than 10 percent of the American population in 2011, according to the Census Bureau.
“A lot of hospitals probably are not aware of the change in diversity and the scale of diversity in their community,” said Melody Schiaffino, lead author and associate professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University.
Many patients do not know their right to access language services, the study noted. These patients may be more likely to go to hospitals that do offer these services. Which means hospitals not offering diagnosis and treatment plans in the preferred language may be missing out on an opportunity to enhance patient care, as well as grow their market.
Check out this guide we put together to take the uncertainty out of addressing language access challenges for your LEP patients.
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