As US demographics continue to shift, hospital language services increasingly impact executive-level priorities. The struggle to improve patient outcomes and achieve great HCAHPS scores exemplifies the interaction between patient satisfaction – now a major factor affecting hospital reimbursements – and language services. This ongoing development may put language services leaders in a position to either help or hinder hospital goals.
Patient health and safety outcomes are critical pieces of the patient experience and may impact how they rate that experience when surveyed. Research confirms that LEP patients continue to suffer worse health outcomes overall than their English-speaking peers:
- The Journal of Healthcare Quality learned that LEP patients suffer medication errors and lack of informed consent.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics found that non-English-speakers experience more adverse events and longer hospital stays.
- A review of 10.7 million Medicare records identified medical misunderstanding and miscommunication as the main driver of unnecessary readmissions.
Fewer interpreter errors and provider/patient misunderstandings may improve patient outcomes, leading to fewer adverse events and a better patient experience overall – an experience which may be reflected in the HCAHPS scores the patients then give the hospital.
Businesses that embrace quality language services have seen their satisfaction scores improve dramatically. Hospitals who take a “customer service” approach to their LEP patients may achieve similar results:
The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) studied the impact of businesses adding language services support to their customer service channels. The results were impressive, and likely mirror the impact hospitals might see on their HCAHPS scores.
ICMI found that adding language services:
- Improves satisfaction with customer support by 72%.
- Positively impacts 70% of customers that prefer a language other than English.
- Increases customer loyalty by 58%.
Hospitals that improve their LEP interactions – making patients feel heard, understood, and respected – will likely improve patient outcomes and see their HCAHPS scores improve as a result. Experts predict the US foreign-born population to increase from 40 to 80 million people by 2050, so the percentage of non-English-speaking patients continues to grow. Hospitals that focus on satisfying this demographic may benefit for decades to come.