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How to Localize Patient Portals with Language Support

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Having an effective patient portal offers so many benefits for large-scale healthcare providers like hospitals. This single online tool improves operational efficiency and gives patients a direct line of access to their personal health information.

Additionally, the portal can be used for important aspects of care like ongoing patient education and community health alerts. 

Patient portals must be localized to serve all patients, no matter what language they speak. Otherwise, at-risk members of your patient community who may speak a different language or have limited English proficiency (LEP) won't benefit the same from a patient portal. Let's take a closer look at localization and how you can localize your patient portals with language support. 

What Is Localization?

Even though localization can sometimes be equated with translation, the term "localization" actually refers to an all-encompassing process that involves product/content adaptation that caters to a specific sect of the population. While content translation can be a part of the localization process, full localization involves altering several other elements as well, with the end goal of ensuring the full patient portal is geared toward a target market. 

Patient portal elements that may have to be changed, adjusted, or adapted include: 

  • Graphic designs and layouts to make room for translated content 
  • Written content to adequately communicate messages and information 
  • Units of measurement and mentions of currency 
  • Formats of elements like phone numbers, dates, and addresses 

In addition, patient portals may have to be adjusted to be mindful of certain cultural ideals of the target audience. For example, any imagery used may have to be changed to suit cultural norms. 

Why Is Patient Portal Localization Important?

The overall purpose of patient portals is to make patient information like healthcare records and information accessible without the need to engage with the provider directly. This provides a twofold benefit to the patient and the staff of the hospital.

For example, imagine a patient that speaks limited English and does not understand the portal. The content on the page is not in their native language, so this patient has to either give up on obtaining the desired information or reach out to hospital staff and hope they have the necessary language services or an interpreter available. This patient may be at risk of not getting critical care information, but also the overall efficiency of the portal for that patient and the provider is lost. Now, consider this scenario when a large percentage of patients speak a language other than English.

LEP resident demographics are on the rise 

In the United States, LEP individuals are a rapidly growing demographic. According to the latest research, 8.6% (25 million) of the population can be defined as LEP. And in some geographic locations, this number can be even higher. In fact, seven cities in California and Texas have LEP populations that far exceed the national average, with at least one in four residents or more being LEP. 

LEP patients face health equity disparities already 

LEP patients are already at risk of health disparities. Because healthcare providers don't always have the most effective language services in place, these patients are often put into challenging positions with their health. The patient may not fully comprehend things like diagnoses, follow-up care, or discharge instructions. Likewise, some avoid seeking care when they need it because they don't understand the services available or they may even deal with perceived or actual discrimination. Unfortunately, all of this combined leads to higher rates of hospital readmissions, a greater risk of medical error, and longer hospital stays for the LEP patient population. 

5 Best Practices for Localizing Your Hospital's Patient Portal Experience

1. Understand the language needs of the community 

The more understanding there is of the diversity of the community as far as language and culture go, the more effective the localization process will be. Get familiar with the local demographics, examine patient records, and create a detailed report that shows how many different languages are likely spoken by your target patient community. 

2. Determine the best way to localize the patient portal 

If the target community consists only of one other spoken language, adding translated content to each section and addressing other elements may suffice. By contrast, deploying a patient portal that gives immediate access to a language option drop-down menu can be more complicated but more effective for more diverse communities. Revamping a patient portal is complex due to the technical nature of the process. The code for the program may have to be altered. Therefore, working closely with the developer of the program will be necessary for most organizations. 

3. Be culturally aware

Content translation is no doubt the most important element when it comes to patient portal localization. However, other elements may have to be adjusted based on cultural differences as well. For instance, something as seemingly harmless as an image used on the portal may be acceptable to domestic cultures and still be offensive to another culture. Likewise, certain terms, idioms, or traditions may not be understood by an LEP patient. Examine the patient portal with a discerning eye and cultural understanding, and make adjustments as needed. 

4. Work with a skilled language services provider

Look for a language services provider that has the necessary experience to help with patient portal localization. Language service providers that focus on the combination of translation and transcreation are best for patient portal localization. Translation changes the language to a target language, but transcreation is all about translating the meaning, context, and intent in the most effective ways possible. 

5. Create awareness around the language options available 

Once a patient portal has been properly localized, be sure all patients within your target community know that the portal supports their spoken language. It may be a good idea to post translated signage in the hospital and offer translated pamphlets or documents to LEP patients, so they know how to access the portal and what to expect. 

Achieve Patient Portal Localization With Help from GLOBO

GLOBO offers a full collection of language support services, including translation, to help with patient portal localization. Reach out to request more information or a free demo today. 

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