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In a linguistically diverse country like the United States, language access is critical — especially in healthcare. Even with regulations in place to ensure equal access to care for all individuals, limited-English proficient (LEP) individuals continue to face significant risks and challenges.
Here's a look at six statistics that reveal just how important language support is for LEP populations.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1980 and 2019, the number of individuals in the U.S. that spoke a language other than English in their homes practically tripled to 67.8 million. The most common languages besides English in the U.S. include Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Arabic.
Surveys among LEP patients have found that individuals that speak a language other than English are as much as nine times as likely to not comprehend what is going on in a medical situation. Other findings have shown that LEP patients also have difficulties understanding the labels on their prescription medications and experience adverse reactions due to this fact, making the need for written translation just as important as voiced interpretation.
LEP patients are likely to face longer hospital stays than English-speaking patients. In general, research indicates the length of stay (LOS) for LEP patients tends to be longer by anywhere from 0.7 to 4.3 days. A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine analyzed the LOS of 3,071 patients, 39% of which received language support during admission and discharge. Patients that did not get proper language support had significantly longer — up to a day and a half — hospital stays than LEP patients that did.
According to a study discussed in The Joint Commission's Hospitals, Language, and Culture: A Snapshot of the Nation, 43% of hospitals in 32 states clearly identified a link between issues with patient safety and the patient's language support needs. Unfortunately, none of those hospitals had protocols in place to actively monitor adverse patient events according to the linguistic needs of the patient.
In general, communication issues are one of the biggest culprits behind malpractice claims. In one study, among 23,000 medical malpractice claims, 7,000 (roughly 30%) were related to failures in communication. These failures resulted in 2,000 deaths that could have been prevented and over $1.7 billion in costs for malpractice payments. Therefore, adequate language access could literally save lives.
Adopting language solutions is undeniably an essential step to enhancing LEP patient care. A study published in 2017 found that simply providing access to telephone interpreting during all stages of treatment in a hospital setting reduced readmission rates. Readmission rates for LEP patients dropped from 17.8% to 13.4%. Even with the costs of language support, hospitals reaped cost savings of more than $160,000 due to averted readmissions.
At GLOBO, we strive to help healthcare organizations provide quality care to all patients — no matter what language they speak — by offering a comprehensive collection of language support tools and solutions. From document translation to telephone, in-person, and video-remote interpreting, we create better connections. Schedule a demo to discover the GLOBO difference for your organization and how we can help you improve care outcomes for people of all linguistic backgrounds.