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5 Common Language Access Mistakes You Might Be Making

Patient talking to healthcare provider

Medical facilities serve diverse patient populations, making accessibility a priority for effective care.  But accessibility goes beyond adding wheelchair-accessible ramps and rooms — it also includes providing adequate language access for all patients.

But what qualifies as adequate language access? To find out, let's look at some common language access mistakes organizations make to help you determine if you're providing the right level of language support for your limited-English proficient (LEP) patient population.

1. Relying on Bilingual Staff

Unfortunately, nearly half of the healthcare providers in the U.S. lean on their bilingual staff to provide language access solutions. And while bilingual individuals may have superb language skills, that doesn't mean they can provide accurate and ethical interpretations. 

Bilingual staff members are used to processing each language in a separate environment — not simultaneously. Only qualified interpreters are trained to go beyond bilingualism and activate both languages at the same time. 

Plus, certified linguists must undergo professional code of conduct training to uphold confidentiality while providing impartial and ethical services. Most bilingual individuals don't have this training and may unknowingly let personal biases and lack of experience affect their interpretation. 

While bilingual staff may seem like a simple and cost-effective solution to language access in healthcare, they can actually hinder effective communication. Only medically qualified interpreters can deliver high-quality, accurate language services. 

2. Hiring a Language Service Provider (LSP) Without Industry Expertise 

All language service providers (LSPs) are the same, right? Wrong. 

Some LSPs have linguists with extensive experience in a specific industry — and with good reason. Each sector has a particular set of vocabulary terms and jargon requiring an in-depth understanding. 

If you are working with an LSP that doesn't specialize in healthcare or provides general language services, the linguists may not be familiar with medical terminology. The result can be inaccurate interpretations, potentially leading to medical issues like misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment plans. Look for a provider that offers qualified medically qualified linguists — nothing less.

3. Limiting Your Language Access Solutions

True accessibility means providing language solutions for everyone in every situation. If you offer on-site interpretation for those who speak the most common languages in your area, that's a great start. But what happens when someone who speaks a less common language enters your facility? 

Finding an available interpreter can take time — and extra resources. But that doesn't make it any less important. Your language solutions should ensure fair language for all, so ensure your language service provider doesn't limit you.

An ideal LSP offers both translation and interpretation services, including virtual remote interpretation and custom services

4. Forgetting About Web Accessibility

It's also important to consider web accessibility for people seeking online resources. Imagine someone visiting your website looking for contact information, but they need help navigating the site due to a language barrier. Or maybe they download treatment information in the patient portal, but it's all in English, not their native language. 

These barriers can negatively affect the patient experience and hinder them from getting the care they need. If your LSP offers a broad scope of language solutions, you can ask them about translating any online resources for increased language access.

5. Investing Soley in Machine Translation

The rising popularity of ChatGPT has brought artificial intelligence front and center across industries — and many organizations are already considering its capabilities for language solutions. 

However, relying on machine translation is just like depending on bilingual staff for interpretations and translations. Neither option offers the expertise of medically qualified linguists. 

A machine can't replace human linguists because it looks at words as a series of numbers rather than a complex expression of ideas. Nor can a machine keep up with the constantly evolving intricacies of language. 

Avoid These Language Accessibility Mistakes With GLOBO

By partnering with the right language service provider, you can avoid these five language access mishaps and offer improved accessibility in healthcare.

GLOBO offers comprehensive interpretation and translation services to meet all your language access needs. The best part is that we provide medically qualified interpreters, so you always get high-quality language solutions. See for yourself by signing up for a demo today. 


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