VRI Helps CHCs Effectively Communicate with LEP Patients

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

Community Health Centers (CHCs) serve over 28 million patients in the United States today, and over 8 million of these patients require the use of language services in order to have meaningful access to their healthcare information. The need for interpretation services in CHCs is significant and increasingly diverse, meaning more patients are requesting services in languages of lesser diffusion. Top requested languages are shifting, particularly in refugee resettlement areas and migration hubs.

A 2008 NACHC survey revealed CHCs serve large LEP populations even in states with relatively low numbers of people with limited English proficiency. Three-fourths of CHCs that participated in the survey estimated that more than ten percent of their patient population was LEP at that time. Over the past eleven years, that number has undoubtedly increased.

The survey also revealed a great number of CHCs utilize bilingual staff members to interpret for LEP patients. While this is an excellent practice when bilingual staff members are extensively trained in medical interpretation, most times they are not. Bilingual medical staff may only have experienced healthcare in the United States and therefore would be unqualified to serve as a cultural broker when differences in health programs and medical terminology arise. They also may struggle to remain impartial when discussing healthcare plans and interject their own medical recommendations. Qualified medical interpreters, on the other hand, are bound by a professional code of ethics which embody the concepts of impartiality and faithfulness to the original message. In addition to mounting evidence supporting the positive correlation between the use of a qualified interpreter and better patient outcome, the provision of language services for LEP, Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) patients is required by Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act among other federal regulations.

With such a high number of LEPs, CHCs require a comprehensive language access plan that includes several language service modalities, e.g., video remote interpretation (VRI), over-the-phone interpretation, onsite interpretation and translation services. VRI is particularly useful for CHCs, as it provides ready access to a large pool of qualified medical interpreters in a wide variety of languages over secure, HIPAA compliant video.

Stratus Video: A NACHC Preferred Vendor

Earlier this year, Stratus Video became a NACHC preferred vendor. With Stratus Video’s VRI solution, CHC providers can benefit from 24/7 access to medically qualified interpreters.

“The Stratus Video products are so easy to use,” said Danny Hawkins, Senior VP of Community Health Ventures, the business development affiliate of the NACHC. “We feel confident that this will be an easy implementation for Community Health Centers, and that they will start seeing the benefits of good communication right away.”

Both NACHC and Stratus Video are committed to patient-centered care and improved outcome. For patients who do not speak English, equal access to healthcare information and services can only be achieved with the assistance of a qualified medical interpreter.

Establishing Health Equity for LEPs

The challenges facing LEP patients can make it difficult to meet patient needs in a timely and efficient manner. Studies show LEP patients without access to an interpreter have a longer length of stay and a greater likelihood of returning to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. This is because without effective communication, it is nearly impossible for patients who do not speak English to understand and follow post hospital care plans. CHCs across the country strive to provide the best possible care to all patients, but when patients are limited English proficient, Deaf or hard of hearing, it can be difficult to ensure they have the same level of access to care and services as their English-speaking counterparts. By acknowledging these challenges and leveraging interpretation services to address them, CHC providers are eliminating disparities in care and working towards health equity for all patients.

Stratus Video recently published a case study highlighting the use of VRI at AltaMed, a community health system with centers located throughout Southern California. The health system implemented Stratus Video’s VRI solution in October of 2018. The first month, Altamed utilized over 6,000 minutes of VRI services. Just nine months later, that number increased by nine hundred percent. In July of this year, the community health system processed over 61,000 minutes. This great rise in the utilization of VRI demonstrates AltaMed’s commitment to establish health equity for LEP patients via better communication.

CHCs consistently encounter high numbers of patients with limited English proficiency. VRI greatly simplifies the process of providing language services for this significant patient population. While some healthcare encounters require onsite interpretation, in most cases VRI is an optimal solution for effective communication. For quick reference on when to use each mode of interpretation, download our decision tree.

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