Using Translation to Support Patient Engagement and Population Health Management

By United Language Group

Healthcare organizations are making big investments in population health and patient engagement platforms as they prepare to move past meaningful use and toward value-based reimbursement according to “The Big Mega HIT Purchasing Report” released by market research firm peer60.

Further, according to a recent guide by CMS, patients with limited health literacy and/or language barriers may require additional culturally competent resources to realize the full potential of disease management programs.

Multiple studies have shown that certain patient-level factors, such as race, ethnicity, language proficiency, age, socioeconomic status, place of residence, and disability, among others may be predictors of readmission risk. For example:

  • Limited English proficiency is associated with lower rates of outpatient follow-up and use of preventive services, medication adherence, and understanding discharge diagnosis and instructions. A key component of culturally competent care involves an assessment of the patients’ language needs, as well as a plan to help them obtain the necessary language assistance. Care givers should ask for the patient’s preferred spoken language for care, as well as preferred written language. Ensure that discharge instructions are communicated in the patient’s preferred language.
  • Low health literacy is related to limited knowledge of medical conditions, poor ability to manage medications and self-care, and non-adherence to treatment plans. Written materials should take into account both literacy level and the preferred language of the patient and/or caregiver. Use terminology the patient understands, and avoid the use of medical jargon where possible. Using relatable language is especially important when working with patients with limited English proficiency who may experience additional barriers to communication.
  • Cultural beliefs and customs influence patients’ health behaviors, perceptions of care, and interpretation of medical information or advice. Care givers can facilitate trust with patients by demonstrating respect for cultural practices and beliefs and engaging families or communities in care transitions. As appropriate, care givers should also address cultural factors predictive of medication non-adherence, such as patient perceptions regarding the benefits of Western vs. Eastern medicine and perceptions of susceptibility to disease/harm.

We’ve created a guide to help you address language barriers, cross-cultural care, and communication and trust with diverse patient populations called “Beyond Translation: Best Practices for Healthcare.”

Have questions? We’d love to help. Contact us today.

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