Nearly one in four Lee County residents speaks a language other than English at home, and the illiteracy rate is 13%. Lee Health, the largest healthcare system in Southwest Florida, is working hard to overcome these challenges through Diverse Lee, a comprehensive language services program focused on community outreach and a multi-tiered approach to ensuring access.
Lee’s System Director of Diversity and Patient Care, Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates, joined CyraCom and the American Hospital Association for a webinar on these topics, sharing her insights into best practices for caring for limited-English proficient (LEP) patient populations.
Lee’s dedication is to equity, which Yemisi was careful to distinguish from equality. She noted that offering every patient the same services may seem equal, but it fails to account for the diverse needs of the individual. Creating equity means offering each individual patient the resources they need to achieve a quality health outcome.
Yemisi went on to explain the strategies she’s implemented to ensure Lee’s LEP patients receive equitable care:
Medical Interpreter Training Program
Lee pioneered its own medical interpretation training class, sending one of their interpreters with an education background to become a certified trainer alongside Yemisi. Together, they developed a curriculum that they offer three to four times a year; it carries state accreditation and certifies bilingual staff members fluent in Spanish or Haitian Creole to act as interpreters. Yemisi estimates the program has certified over 1,000 employees since its inception in 2008.
Interpreter Notification Banner
Added to Lee’s EPIC screens in December of 2016, the interpreter notification banner allows providers to note than an interpreter is needed. Once a provider inputs that information, it displays in neon green on-screen every time the patient’s records are accessed. This program has increased interpreter utilization at Lee by 30%.
Lee incorporated the diversity tracer to track which departments are utilizing interpreters appropriately and which may have knowledge gaps that necessitate retraining. This initiative has increased the percentage of Lee employees who understand when and how to effectively utilize interpreter resources from 76% to 89%.
System-Wide Video Interpretation
Lee added CyraCom’s video interpretation services to 60+ physicians’ offices across Lee County, ensuring access for LEP patients beyond the walls of their hospitals. The rollout began in acute care and targeted 800 Lee employees to familiarize them with video interpretation. The remote physicians’ offices, spread across Lee County, required a different approach: Lee Health divided their offices into regions and set up training times for CyraCom’s team to visit different offices on different days, ensuring everyone received the training they needed.
Inbound Calling Feature
At discharge, Lee provides LEP patients a card with a phone number which, when dialed, will automatically add a phone interpreter to the call. This allows the patient to call their provider without the challenge of being greeted in English and having to explain the resources they need.
Consent Form Readability Study
Lee found that their consent forms – written at 10-11th grade level – were beyond the literacy of many patients. CyraCom was able to help, “translating” the form language down to a 4-5th grade reading level. To ensure these new forms would be effective, Yemisi convened patient focus groups, holding sessions at different times and locations and providing free food to incentivize participation. There, Lee shared their original forms as well as those modified by CyraCom. Participants rated the original 5 out of 10 for readability and the new version 8 out of 10 – a significant improvement. Lee plans to translate these simplified forms into commonly-requested non-English languages as well.
These are just a few of the many actionable takeaways Yemisi shared with hospital attendees looking to improve and perfect their language access programs. Check out the full webinar replay to learn more.