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3 Ways to Use Language Services to Achieve Patient Safety Goals

Published on June 08, 2015 by Regina Wetzel

Language Services Achieve Patient Safety Goals

Every year, the Joint Commission produces the National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs), a list of specific improvements for hospital patient safety that hospitals must implement to be accredited by the Joint Commission. The last NPSGs were released in January of 2015.

We picked one goal from the NPSGs to examine today: accurately communicating and reconciling patient medication and medical information:

NPSG.03.06.01 – Record and pass along correct information about a patient’s medicines. Find out what medicines the patient is taking. Compare those medicines to new medicines given to the patient. Make sure the patient knows which medicines to take when they are at home. Tell the patient it is important to bring their up-to-date list of medicines every time they visit a doctor.

Discussing medication when both parties are native speakers of English can be complicated, and in situations where the patient is Limited English Proficient (LEP), a discussion without the use of professional interpreters can lead to misunderstandings and patient safety issues.

Step 1: Leverage Interpreters to Collect Medication Information

The Joint Commission warns in their detailed summary of this NPSG that it can be difficult to obtain a complete list of medications from every patient. Moreover, this can become a very meticulous and complicated task with patients who take multiple medications, and the patient’s willingness and ability to provide this information can affect the outcome

So, how can an interpreter help you collect medication information from patients? A professional interpreter can ask a patient in their native language details such as:

- Medication name

- Dose

- Frequency

- Route

- Purpose

According to their chapter on the topic, the Joint Commission expresses that “a good faith effort to collect this information is recognized as meeting the intent of this requirement.” Using an interpreter and documenting their presence in the meeting by notating their interpreter number may be used as evidence of the “good faith effort.”

Step 2: Use a Translator for Written Medication Information

Does your hospital have a policy about translating medication instructions and information for LEP patients? Some hospitals may provide translated instructions by contracting with external document translation companies, independent contractors, or qualified, professional employed in-house.

It’s important for there to be a policy in place to not only follow the requirements of this NPSG, but also to lower the chances of readmissions, which may lead to financial penalties.

Step 3: Call an Interpreter When Discharging LEP Patients

Does your hospital have a policy about calling an interpreter to explain discharge topics to the patient in their native language? The NPSG instructs hospitals to teach patients about managing medication information, which includes sharing it with their PCP and carrying a medication list in the event of an emergency.  With an interpreter, patients can be educated in these topics during discharge, and your staff can use CyraCom’s interpreters to make outbound calls to speak with or leave messages for patients.

The Joint Commission has great resources and ideas for improving patient safety at your hospital on its website. You can find more information and ideas about this NPSG and others here.

Does your hospital have a great policy in place when it comes to communicating medication information? 

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