Ensuring Equity at Health & Wellness Centers: VRI Reduces Disparities in Care

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

There are about 25.3 million people living in the United States today who are considered limited English proficient (LEP), according to the Migration Policy Institute. Limited English proficiency refers to anyone above the age of five who reported speaking English less than “very well,” as classified by the U.S. Census Bureau. Though most LEP individuals are immigrants, nearly 19 percent (4.7 million) were born in the United States, most to immigrant parents. The LEP population represents nine percent of the total U.S. population ages five and up.

The challenges facing LEP patients can make it difficult to meet patient needs in a timely and efficient manner. Health and wellness centers across the country strive to provide the best possible care to everyone who walks through their doors, but when patients are limited English proficient, Deaf or hard of hearing, it can create serious barriers to true health equity. Without acknowledging these challenges and leveraging technology to address them, health and wellness providers are preventing equal treatment for all patients.

Addressing Disparities to Meet Patient Needs

There are significant disparities that exist across different patient populations, whether they be due to socioeconomic status, culture, or language barriers. Each of these factors, directly and indirectly, affects a patient’s chances of receiving appropriate treatment in a timely manner during their visit to a health or wellness center.

For people who speak another language besides English, receiving the best treatment possible can be difficult. Less than a decade ago, interpreters were available to patients only in person. Healthcare organizations nationwide were limited by on-site interpreter availability, experiencing long delays and extensive wait times for interpreters to travel to meet with patients, and even worse, interpreters may not have spoken a patient’s requested language or dialect.

Fortunately, technology has given today’s health and wellness centers the opportunity to increase their access to medically qualified interpreters. With access to video remote interpreting (VRI), healthcare organizations and health and wellness centers have the ability to immediately connect with a medically qualified interpreter in dozens of languages, including access to American Sign Language (ASL) and Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs).

Video Remote Interpreting Promotes Patient Advocacy  

Without an interpreter, LEP patients can be put through unnecessary tests or procedures for diagnostic purposes. When patients are able to communicate in their preferred language, they have the opportunity to take ownership of their healthcare, expressing their symptoms and medical history as well as being able to clearly understand instructions and follow-up care recommendations. Patients can communicate confidently and advocate effectively to ensure they are receiving the best possible care.

Access to VRI has the potential to improve communication and increase patient safety, providing healthcare organizations with the chance to increase health equity across all populations. However, VRI services are only effective when paired with an organization committed to providing reliable equipment, and highly trained and medically qualified interpreters that are available 24/7. Partnering with Stratus Video, health and wellness centers have the potential to increase patient satisfaction, improve clinician efficiencies and reduce language services costs. To learn more about how to commit your organization to providing equitable access to all of your patients, visit: www.stratusvideo.com.

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