Language access

Communication is one of the most notable aspects of human nature. In healthcare settings, communication is not only important but essential. The nature of effective communication is a major goal in Healthy People 2020, a federal initiative to improve health outcomes in the United States.

Achieving effective communication in healthcare settings requires coordinated and system-wide planning, particularly if your organization provides healthcare services to limited-English proficient populations. Patients with limited, or non-English proficiency tend to lack proper access to care, and have less understanding of care and treatment guidelines, which results in poorer health outcomes (click here to read AHRQ annual reports). Organizations need to account for the large limited-English proficient population and offer appropriate language access services as regulated by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and following the recommendations by The Joint Commission, and the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Service (CLAS) standards.

In 2018, a study identified that out of 1,373 malpractice claims from four states, 1 of every 40 claims, were related, all or in part, to failure to provide appropriate language access services. Similarly, in 2013, Mara Youdelman from the National Health Law program published a report on the high costs of of language barriers in medical malpractice. Youdelman identified the key aspects and detrimental consequences for organizations and patients when failing to provide appropriate language access services in health care. “The investment in language services is far less than the direct and indirect costs of not providing language access services.”

The ability to effectively communicate through the provision of qualified language access services is also essential in other professional fields such as legal, business, educational and social services.

Which services make up appropriate language access services?

Effective communication can be achieved through the provision of comprehensive language access services, which include a variety of resources:

  • On-site provision of trained and credentialed spoken and Sign Language Interpreters
  • Remote interpreting services (telephonic, video remote interpreting, and tele-health)
  • Translated documents
  • Effective announcement of the provision of language services through language-specific signage and audiovisual resources.
  • Use of trained bilingual staff members to respond to basic communication needs
  • Training of providers in the best practices to use appropriate language access services

The combination of these resources adapted to the needs and nature of the services offered should constitute the appropriate provision of language access services. Providing only one type of language access service generally fails to account for the diverse needs of limited-English proficient individuals.

How can Phoenix Language Services help my organization improve the provision of language access services?

Phoenix Language Services will continue its commitment to the provision of quality-driven language access services.

Our team of professionals can guide your organization in the development and enhancement of a comprehensive language access program, utilizing the knowledge and professional experience we have gained for over 25 years.

Our comprehensive language access development program includes, but is not limited to:

  • Recruiting, training, and deployment of trained and credentialed spoken and Sign Language interpreters.
  • Provider training in the best practices to optimize the use of appropriate language access services.
  • Use of a HIPAA-compliant online Interpreter Management System (IMS) that can respond to the needs of your organization to manage language access services, and maintain real-time communication with interpreters and providers. IMSTM is capable of integrating with electronic health record applications.
  • Provision of training for interpreters to prepare for national certification exams and continuing education opportunities.
  • Provision of interpreting credentialing services including medical compliance, background check, and client-specific needs.

Providing appropriate language access services is critical to achieve effective communication, better understanding of treatment plans and health outcomes in patients, while complying with the recommended and regulatory aspects of language access.

In which settings would language access services be essential?

  • Healthcare settings
    • In-patient services
    • Outpatient services
    • Home care visits
    • Patient education
    • Research settings
    • Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)
  • Mental health settings
    • In-patient services
    • Office visits
    • Therapy sessions
  • Legal settings
    • Court
    • Arbitration
    • Deposition
    • Consultations, conferences
    • Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)
  • Insurance companies, agencies
    • Meetings
    • Consultations
  • Educational services
    • Classroom settings
    • Parent/Teacher meetings
    • Consultations
  • Social services
    • Home visits
    • Assessments
    • Therapy sessions
  • Professional conferences
    • Simultaneous interpreting

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