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How To Make Sure Your Hospital or Clinic is Compliant with Title VI Before the New Year

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*:

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  • 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.

Why do I need to provide language access to patients, clients and customers?

Being able to communicate effectively in the language of your patients, clients, or customers is extremely important for your relationship and essential to your brand's success. If you receive federal funding, providing adequate language access options also protects you from violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. This includes providing language access to individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEPs). Your company's customers will also feel more attracted to your brand if advertising and customer service options are provided in the language in which they are most comfortable.

A hospital, for example, should always have on-site or on-call interpreters available for LEP individuals. This will help eliminate medical emergencies or poor care caused by the individual's inability to communicate effectively with health care providers. It is extremely important that both doctor and patient understand each other completely to avoid these potentially grave errors. The same holds true in legal settings. Miscommunication between parties can be the difference between improper sentencing and an innocent person being set free. Communication in their native language also ensures that each party understands all legal implications associated with an action, protecting everyone involved.

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Not only does closing the language barrier protect you from violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it also goes a long way in improving your brand image. If you are able to provide advertisements in the native language of your intended audience, these customers will be more likely to feel appreciated and attracted to your company. If you provide customer service options in other languages (either via a live bilingual operator or telephonic interpretation option), these customers will continue to feel appreciated and are more likely to interact with you if needed. This communication can help ensure their needs are met so they remain loyal customers for you.

If you find that you would like to provide language access for any target demographic, we will be glad to assist with the steps along the way. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or for a free quote.