One of the ongoing debates within the American medical community centers on how best to care for those who do not use English as their primary language.
It’s easy to see why this issue is gaining increasing prominence.
Although the official language of the United States is English, not everyone who makes their home in America has reached full language proficiency. In many cases, new arrivals may not speak any English at all. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a significant volume of Americans use a language other than English as their primary mode of communication.
Of 291.5 million people aged 5 and over, 60.6 million people (21 percent of this population) spoke a language other than English at home.
Sooner or later, many among that 21% will seek medical care. When they do, how can they access the sort of quality communication necessary to ensure that they can follow the doctor’s recommendations and instructions?
Sorting Through the Options
Language translation apps are an option, of course, and some doctors do use them; however, apps rely on computer-based algorithms, they’re not always accurate; mistakes and miscommunications regarding medical treatment are simply not acceptable outcomes. Because of these variables, there will always be those who are wary of translation apps.
Medical practitioners do have another option: they can contract with language service providers. Whether these providers work in-house or remotely, they depend on experts to provide correct medical translations. Qualified to handle everything from patient itineraries to medication tables, medication updates, discharge instructions and more, these translators seek accurate, reliable translations.
Of course, such service providers are not as quick as apps; and because time is often a factor in effectively treating patients, there will always be those who are wary of relying on a service that will delay treatment of the patient.
Which brings us to the crux of why this debate matters.
Recognizing Why This Matters
We all know that in order to seek the best possible outcome in medical situations, time is often of the essence. In most cases, the sooner a patient can receive surgery, begin medication, or start treatments, the higher the chances for success; therefore, any situation that slows patients’ access to care could rob them of potential health and recovery.
Whether a patient has no English at all or Limited English Proficiency (LEP), language intervention is required. While bilingual staff can often help in interviews and on-site explanations, their time is too valuable to be tied up in paperwork and page-by-page translations. After all, they’re trained medical professionals, not language experts.
Boosting Patient Engagement
While patient engagement is always a vital issue, it’s even more serious for those in vulnerable non-English-speaking communities.
Therefore, to maintain good patient engagement, you must consider how best to serve those who may require language services in order to obtain optimum care.