Repost: Overcoming Common Challenges to Providing Language Services

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

While it is a requirement to provide Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) to limited English proficiency (LEP) and Deaf/Hard of Hearing (HoH) patients, many healthcare facilities run into barriers that impede the provision of such services. Common barriers include difficulty identifying communication needs, cost concerns, lack of training resources and a shortage of community data. Below are tips on how to best face each of these common barriers to providing language services in healthcare.

  • Difficulty Identifying Communication Needs – Communication needs can be included as part of the collection of race, ethnicity and language data at patient intake, admission or registration. Common questions include the patient’s preferred spoken language and preferred written language to receive healthcare information. This enables hospitals to properly plan patient care. Other important factors include the number of encounters a hospital has had with LEP patients, the number of languages encountered and any recent increase in interpreter requests. The size and scope of the facility should also be taken into account, including the number of beds in each hospital, outpatient clinic and/or inpatient center.


  • Cost Concerns – While interpretation services are required at no cost to the patient, the benefits of providing interpretation offset the cost. The use of a qualified medical interpreter has been shown to reduce LEP patient stay by almost a day, yield lower readmission rates and reduce reports of adverse patient events due to communication errors, all of which significantly lower the cost of patient care for health systems. Increased interpreter efficiency can also help reduce the cost of language services, which can be accomplished via the implementation of video remote interpretation, onsite interpreter scheduling applications and over the phone interpreting services.


  • Lack of Training Resources – Most interpretation providers offer tools and training resources to hospitals and health systems as part of the implementation process and ongoing customer support. There are several actions that healthcare providers can take to more effectively work as a team with medical interpreters. Top tips include preparing the interpreter for the session, speaking directly to the patient, speaking simply and checking for understanding. Most important of all, healthcare providers must use a qualified medical interpreter in order to ensure that the message is being conveyed accurately and completely. For more helpful tips, watch our educational webinar on successful implementation of the three tiers of language services and the benefits they bring to healthcare facilities.


  • Shortage of LEP & Deaf/HoH Community DataU.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey data can provide valuable information surrounding LEP and Deaf/HoH populations. Non-English-speaking populations are continuously growing and shifting, especially areas with migration hubs and refugee resettlement zones. It is important to check the latest data available for an accurate estimate of LEP patient population intake. Key data includes top foreign languages and percentage of LEP persons in the area.


While barriers to providing language services exist in most health systems and hospitals, they can be overcome with proper data collection, planning and staff training. The benefits that language services provide to LEP and Deaf/HoH patients greatly outweigh the challenges that hospitals face to provide them. Download our recent cost savings case study and discover how our services make patient communication easier and less expensive as well as the long term benefits to healthcare organizations.

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