First impressions are key with all patients. And ensuring adequate language access for your Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients can make a huge difference for your practice, both in patient safety and satisfaction. Your patients are more likely to receive improved quality in health care with fewer medical errors if they have access to the information they need in the language of their choice. This leads to a higher rate of patient satisfaction, and the individual is more likely to return to your practice/facility, if necessary, as long as they feel confident in the quality of care they received the first time.
Outside of just having access to the translated versions of key documents and medical interpreters for your patients, here are a few ways to better serve your LEP community and patients.
Make sure your LEP community knows language access is available
Many LEP individuals may not even realize that they can receive care in their own language at your practice. This can result in a lack of preventative care, increasing their reliance on emergency room visits when issues become more serious. This actually increases costs to the health care system, which could be alleviated by helping to inform your local LEP community that they can receive more basic or preventative care, even if they do not speak English. You can work with your public relations or marketing team to find ways to communicate this information to local groups. Social media channels, television appearances, direct mailers, or newspaper advertisements may be good places to start.
Translate discharge and prescription instructions
Part of the reason that LEP patients have a greater chance of admission (or readmission) to the hospital after seeking care is that they do not fully understand their discharge instructions or how to properly take their medications. Having a professional interpreter present during admission and discharge, as well as having any at-home instructions translated into the patient’s preferred language, can result in a lower chance of patient confusion when they return home, lessening the need for the patient to return to your office or visit the ER later if their condition is not improving. It is also important not to assume that a pharmacy has instructions for all prescriptions in various languages. If you are in doubt of a patient’s understanding, you can always use the “teach back” method to have the patient confirm what is expected of them when they leave.
Provide training for your physicians and staff to improve language access for LEP patients
You do not need a multilingual staff to be able to interact with your LEP patients. If your staff is trained to recognize cultural sensitivities and differences, as well as key indicators that your patients may need a professional medical interpreter, you can better serve your patients well when they come in for their appointments. Some patients will not request an interpreter, either because they do not know they can do so at no cost, or because they overestimate their English competency. Having a professional interpreter present or an over-the-phone interpreter available can help eliminate any language-specific issues that may arise during the visit.
If your practice has put anything in place that has helped deliver better care for your LEP patients, we’d love to hear more about it! Please let us know by leaving a comment!