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In 2004, there were an estimated 34.2 million foreign-born people in the U.S.
In 2005, 1,122,373 people became legal permanent residents, 604,280 people became naturalized citizens, 53,813 people were admitted as refugees, and there were an estimated 175 million entries granted for temporary visitor status. Those numbers do not include people who enter the U.S. illegally .
Language barriers can result in: miscommunication, misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment, increased use of expensive diagnostic tests, increased use of emergency services and decreased use of primary care services, reduced comprehension and adherence to treatment, poor or no patient follow up when follow up is indicated, clinical inefficiency, malpractice injury and death.
Hospitals and medical practices may be liable under federal requirements for language accessibility.
Each non-English speaking person who walks through the door represents a potential malpractice suit.
Example: Doctors and paramedics lost a $71-million judgment to a man left paralyzed when staff misinterpreted “intoxicado” to mean intoxicated rather than nausea; he was treated for a non-existent drug overdose when he was actually suffering from blood clots in his brain.
Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Created positions for 14 customer service coordinators to serve LEP patients
They walk patients through the center and stay with them until discharge.
Invested: $800,000 in salary expenses for the coordinators and medical interpreters, $864,000 in multilingual signs and plasma-screen kiosks, $150,000 in staff training for cultural competency and medical interpretation.
Resulting in: improved care and customer satisfaction w/ a dramatic drop in complaints. Gained insight into LEP population.
In 2003-2004, these VHAs provided education and outreach activities equal to $150,000 worth of services by paid staff.
They also build awareness of the Alliance’s multicultural programs and services.
The Alliance doesn’t look at providing these services as a financial burden. They believe that it gives them a competitive advantage as their multicultural initiatives are attracting more and more patients from within and beyond their community.
38% of inpatient volume and 48% of primary care visits come from beyond the Alliance’s primary service area.
One physician suggests the U.S. should have a national system of telephone interpreters modeled after the one the Australian government operates. Interpreting services are provided for medical practitioners across the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in one hundred languages for the cost of a local phone call .
Cultural competence training – to understand patient’s backgrounds and thought processes.
Employ a diverse, multicultural, multilingual staff.
While no healthcare provider can afford to hire in-house linguistic experts to cover all languages, they should at least offer telephonic translation services.
Despite increased costs incurred as a result of providing language services, healthcare providers need to realize that LEP patients deserve to get quality healthcare services and should always be offered language services.
As a result, healthcare providers will help to protect themselves from lawsuits and they may discover that they actually gain a competitive advantage by providing language services