Community Health Centers Serve LEP Patients in High Numbers

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

One in five people in the United States speaks a language other than English at home, and over 40 percent of these individuals are considered Limited English Proficient (LEP).

The growing LEP population is creating an increasingly high demand for language access in healthcare. Community Health Centers (CHC) are particularly affected as they serve significant LEP populations throughout the country. In response, community health centers are  seeking effective solutions to provide interpreting services to these rising patient populations.

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) surveyed nearly forty percent of its members to discover how they are meeting the increasingly diverse language needs of their patients. Key findings included the following:

CHCs serve large LEP populations even in states with relatively low numbers of people with limited English proficiency, and three-fourths of CHCs estimated that more than ten percent of their patient population is LEP. This demonstrates the significance of the LEP patient population at community health centers as well as the unique challenge that rural community health centers face, as qualified interpreters can be difficult to locate in certain areas. Remote interpreting services, like video remote interpreting and over the phone interpreting, greatly extend community health centers’ provision of language services. Patients are not only limited to local interpreters in the surrounding area. Qualified interpreters across the United States can quickly be reached over video and phone.

Eighty-seven percent of health centers ask for the patient’s preferred language at registration. In order to have an effective language access plan in place, it is essential to identify the top languages encountered and the frequency of those encounters. This enables community health centers to better prepare for LEP patient visits. By requesting the patient’s preferred language at intake, CHCs also greatly improve both the quality of care given to the patient and the patient perception of care.

Eighty-five percent of CHCs reported that visits with LEP patients take longer than visits with English speaking patients. By having an effective language access solution in place, health centers can access qualified medical interpreters quickly in the language needed, greatly reducing LEP patient encounter times overall. Another point to keep in mind is that encounters take longer and the number of communication errors is higher when an ad hoc interpreter is used, such as a family member or untrained bilingual staff member, versus a qualified medical interpreter.

Sixty three percent of CHCs rated cultural competency training for interpreters as “very important.” Health care programs and terminology vary from culture to culture. Qualified medical interpreters are trained to clarify any cultural nuances that may impact patient provider communication to ensure meaningful understanding takes place. Cultural competency is also part of the professional interpreter code of ethics and the interpreter’s dedication to ongoing training and education.

At community health centers, qualified interpreters are needed frequently and in a wide variety of languages. At Stratus Video, we offer video remote interpretation, over the phone interpretation, onsite interpretation and translation services. With a variety of language services on hand, community health center providers can quickly access qualified interpreters in the language needed and greatly improve care for a significant patient population: those with limited English proficiency.

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