Maternity care is unlike any other type of healthcare...
For one, the clinical team is focused not just on a single patient's care, but two (at minimum). Health outcomes for both mother and baby (or babies) weigh in the balance. For limited-English proficient (LEP) mothers, language barriers can heighten maternal anxiety, impede the exchange of crucial care information, and make it hard to build trust between patient and provider.
The Risk Is High
In a clinical care setting, provider-patient communication isn't just about good bedside manner. Studies show LEP mothers are at higher risk patients than other expectant mothers—LEP mothers have double the risk of obstetric trauma during vaginal births and a higher potential for high-risk deliveries. And LEP populations are growing. As many as one in five babies born in the United States are born to immigrant mothers with limited-English proficiency. While most hospitals provide interpreters for their LEP patients, as many as 33% do not.
A language support partner can can help you overcome communication barriers with your LEP expectant mothers and improve outcomes for both mother and baby.
Finding Solutions That Move the Needle
So much new information is shared during prenatal visits to help pregnant women make healthy choices during their pregnancies, inform them on what to expect from their deliveries, and guide them toward choosing healthcare for their future children. These conversations are ongoing throughout the prenatal care journey, but they're useless if the patient can't understand what the clinician is saying.
Your language support partner can help you with real strategies to reach LEP patients. They may include:
- Developing a library of pre-translated education materials
- Employing in-house or contracted interpreters to help answer questions or translate concerns for the patient
- Working with multilingual birth coaches or doulas
- Partnering with multicultural resources in your community
It's crucial to remember that patient communications need to be clear, direct, respectful, and compassionate. It's also important to provide medically qualified interpreters who have an understanding of medical terminology.
Implementing Support Programs
Maternity care is different because it offers an array of opportunities to engage with patients outside of the clinical setting, such as through birthing or parenting classes, healthy pregnancy programs, and support groups for families who are expecting around the same time. Many of these resources can be adapted to other languages. Or for group classes, there may be opportunities to work with multilingual educators who specialize in these types of services.
It's important to remember that patient communications don't just happen in the delivery room. Both clinical and non-clinical staff should be kept informed of what language services are available and when and how to use them. This should include every facet of interaction, from providing pre-translated forms to connecting patients with interpreter services to guide them through technological interfaces.
The Future Is Empathetic
Language support can help you build trust and rapport with your LEP patients, nurturing a greater sense of comfort and caring in the clinical setting. As communities continue to become more diverse, we have an important obligation and opportunity to build bridges within healthcare that can expand to the greater community.
At GLOBO, we're proud of our work to support healthcare practices by offering the language services they need to make healthcare accessible for all patients (no matter what language they speak). Start the conversation today to learn more about how we empower health systems through language support.