Transitions in care -- when a patient moves from one setting of care to another -- represent significant vulnerability for all patients. When a patient is Limited English Proficient, opportunities for miscommunication pose an added challenge in transitioning their care safely.
Your health system may already have a comprehensive Language Access Plan (LAP) in place that outlines the requirements as determined by the Joint Commission and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. It likely includes things like how to determine when a patient requires language assistance, an overview of the language services available and training/certification requirements that must be met by your staff every year. However, there are often gaps in Language Access Plans where Transitions of Care are concerned, especially for Limited English Proficient patients.
While there are tools available that establish guidelines for developing a Language Access Plan, it’s important to recognize that some areas of your LAP may require particular consideration in order to best serve your patients. One particular area of focus? Patient Discharge.
Readmission rates for LEP patients who don’t receive interpretation during admission and discharge are 9.4% higher than those who have interpreters (IMIA). Providing interpreting services to these patients requires some degree of preparation, so it’s important to have a plan in place and ensure your staff understand how and when to utilize a language service provider.
What can be done to ensure meaningful access for LEP patients and improve health outcomes?
Having pre- translated discharge instructions in the top non-English languages your facility encounters is an effective way to prepare. For a patient who speaks a rarer language, start planning for discharge as soon as the patient schedules an appointment, or for an emergency visit, as soon as the patient arrives. Knowing that your patient speaks a rare language means you and your language partner can proactively find solutions for providing language assistance, such as scheduling a telephone interpreter in advance and translating vital documents for discharge.
Make sure no one leaves your facility in the dark.
When developing and implementing your Language Access Plan, preparation is key. Make sure your LAP clearly outlines how and when to access language services, so your staff can do what they do best - provide the best care for all patients during (and after) their stay at your facility.