Hospitals and healthcare organizations need systems that improve health equity for all patients. How can your organization enhance care for all patients, regardless of their background?
What is health equity?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Health equity is the absence of unfair, avoidable, and remediable differences in health status among groups of people.
- Health and illness follow a social gradient – the lower a person’s socioeconomic position, the worse their chances for health.
- Health equity is achieved when everyone can attain their full potential for health and well-being.
Who experiences health inequity?
Unfortunately, many factors contribute to health inequities that result in lower life expectancy, difficulty getting healthcare, and preventable death. Socioeconomic, demographic, or geographic factors impact health equity the most. For example:
- “Children from the poorest households are twice as likely to die before the age of 5 years than children from the richest households.” (WHO)
- Black women are more likely to give birth to low-birthweight infants, and their newborns experience higher infant death rates that are not associated with any biological differences, even after accounting for socioeconomic factors. (Medical News Today)
- The low-income, rural Appalachian region has 35% fewer mental health providers and 28% fewer specialty physicians than the rest of the nation. (Appalachian Regional Commission)
In addition, many studies show that limited-English proficient (LEP) patients experience worse healthcare outcomes than native English speakers:
- The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that LEP patients are:
- 9x more likely to have trouble understanding a medical scenario
- 4x more likely to misunderstand medication labels
- 4x more likely to have a bad reaction to medication
- Statistically, non-English speakers, particularly in Latino and Chinese populations, readmit at a significantly higher rate than the general population.
- Despite the legal requirements of Section 1557, studies show that communication barriers in healthcare lead to a greater chance of extended-stay hospitalizations, misdiagnosis, and grave medical errors for LEP patients.
Did you know LEP patient outcomes and surveys significantly impact CMS Quality Star Ratings?
How can hospitals/healthcare providers improve health equity?
Hospitals can improve patient safety and enhance health equity by improving communication strategies and implementing language services for LEP patients. Developing or improving your hospital’s Language Access Plan creates a roadmap to better care for LEP patients.
Let’s review a few ways you can use language services to reshape your hospital’s processes and provide equitable care to your patients:
Scheduling & Check-In
- CyraCom creates unique toll-free numbers that connect LEP patients with an interpreter before routing the call to your staff. This solution helps LEP patients access the care they need while improving process efficiency for your staff.
- Help LEP patients understand check-in processes using bilingual intake forms and translated welcome cards. These simple and effective solutions work well for our client, UK HealthCare. Read the full case study here.
- Display federally mandated “Interpreters Available” posters in your lobby to notify LEP patients about their right to interpretation services at no personal cost.
- Utilize qualified bilingual staff interpreters or remote interpreters to communicate with LEP patients and their families during appointments.
- Provide translated consent forms and treatment information to ensure LEP patients understand required treatments or procedures.
- Choose video or on-site interpretation services for LEP patients with limited cognitive abilities, such as senior citizens, children, and behavioral health patients.
- Translate critical instructions such as home care instructions, treatment summaries, and medication information into your LEP patients’ preferred languages to avoid readmissions.
- Encourage LEP patients to contact your staff with questions or concerns about their recovery, billing, or future appointments. Adding an automated greeting or interactive voice response (IVR) in other languages to your telephone line (i.e., Press/Say 2 for Spanish) makes this process easier.
- Joint Commission Standards Resource for Language Access
- Language requirements for DNV Healthcare Accreditation
- How CyraCom provides the tools and support services you need
Want a free language services consultation to help you improve health equity?
Contact us at email@example.com for all of your language services questions.