As LEP Patient Encounters Rise, Urgent Care Centers Increase Language Services

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

Patients come to urgent care centers for walk-in services when time is of necessity. No appointment has been made. No patient information is available to urgent care providers prior to the patient’s arrival, including the patient’s preferred language. The sense of urgency that accompanies the needs of urgent care patients, requires services to be quick and effective. This includes language services for the Limited English Proficiency (LEP), Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) patient population.   

An article published by the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine titled “Language Interpretation Services in the Urgent Care Center” explains the link between language non-concordance in urgent care settings and patient engagement. “Cultivating trust requires good communication and if a language barrier stands between patient and provider, not only are clinical outcomes jeopardized, but the urgent care operation can be subject to legal liability.”

Cultivating Trust with Patients

The patient provider relationship is largely dependent on cultivating trust with patients. Trust is achieved through effective communication. Studies have shown that patients disclose more information and further engage with care plans when doctors make eye contact while speaking and demonstrate active listening during patient encounters.

Language Barriers

When the patient does not speak the same language as the urgent care provider, communication is hindered, compromising the provider’s ability to cultivate trust with the LEP patient. This is where the role of a medically qualified interpreter steps in. Evidence demonstrates when qualified interpreters are used at both check-in and discharge with LEP patients, less communication errors occur resulting in adverse effects for patients. In addition, patient satisfaction significantly rises when a qualified interpreter is used versus a family member or untrained bilingual staff member.

Legal Liabilities                            

Urgent care centers who accept Medicaid and Medicare patients must provide language services to Limited English Proficient (LEP), Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) patients. The provision of language services is required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Title II of the ADA and most recently Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The on-demand nature of urgent care and the high volume of walk in patients make having an onsite interpreter available for all encounters requiring language services infeasible in most cases.

The Solution: Video Remote Interpretation

One way that urgent care centers can greatly widen their scope of language services is by implementing video remote interpretation (VRI). VRI provides the face to face benefits of onsite interpretation and eliminates the need for onsite staffing and/or coordination with interpreting agencies. Its immediate nature and ease of use is compatible with urgent care centers’ provision of fast and convenient care. Urgent care providers can reach a medically qualified interpreter in the language they need with just a few presses of a button.

With VRI, effective communication can be achieved for Deaf, HoH and LEP patients without hindering the timeliness of care. In addition to improved care for LEP patients, urgent care centers can more easily comply with regulations, raising the level of care for patients and strengthening the financial stability of the urgent care center.

Experience Stratus Today