With the new year just around the corner, it is important to take a look at the policies and procedures at your hospital or clinic and determine whether or not there is anything that needs to be updated or changed. One area to take a hard look at should be whether your hospital or clinic is compliant with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Part of this act specifies that an organization cannot discriminate based on race, color or national origin. If your hospital or clinic receives federal funding, compliance with Title VI is required. By providing appropriate care for your limited English proficiency (LEP) patients, you can make sure your facility is in line with Title VI. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent issues for your LEP patients*:
- It is not appropriate to ask LEP patients to bring a friend or relative to interpret. Instead, provide language assistance through a professional, qualified interpreter. By suggesting that a friend interpret instead, your facility runs the risk of information being provided incorrectly, as these individuals are not trained with the medical terminology or skills to interpret in these types of scenarios. Not only is this a risk to your LEP patient, but you are denying the patient professional language access by suggesting a non-professional provide it instead.
- Be sure to notify LEP patients that language access is available at no cost to them. You can have these notifications available on posters, application forms, websites, and other informational materials or brochures throughout the hospital/clinic. Patients should know that these services are available at no charge so that they can request them should they feel most comfortable communicating in their primary language.
- It is important not to assume someone’s citizenship, immigration status, or insurance situation based on a patient’s surname, accent, or ability to speak English. It is inappropriate to ask these patients for this type of information because they look or sound foreign, for example.
- Provide translations of vital documents into frequently encountered languages. These translations are best completed by a qualified translator to ensure their accuracy. Again, friends and family members are not aware of specialized terminology related to health care and omissions in rendering the information could present real problems. When it comes to patient information and communications, hiring a professional is best practice.
Title VI compliance is not the only reason to provide these services for your patients. Language barriers can significantly impact a patient’s ability to receive proper care. LEP individuals are less likely to have a primary care physician and therefore receive fewer preventative health services. This often results in more frequent visits to the ER, so guaranteeing your hospital or clinic is able to meet their needs when they come to you for care is crucial, especially as the population of non-English speaking and LEP individuals continues to grow in the U.S. As 2018 approaches, it is important to determine if your hospital meets these needs to prevent any potential issues for both you and your patients. For more information, please visit the website for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services here.
*This advice is intended to be a helpful guideline for Title VI compliance. ATS is not responsible for any issues that may arise as a result of noncompliance at your facility.