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Improve Patient Experience with Quality Medical Interpreting

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 17, 2017 10:30:46 AM / by Matt Schuh



The recent shift in our nation's healthcare reimbursement model (from pay-for-volume to pay-for-value) has given patient satisfaction scores a new level of significance for health systems. Though there's uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act, which put this model in place, value-based care is likely here to stay.

With hospital reimbursements based on outcomes and quality measures, your HCAHPS scores now have a direct and causal effect on your facility’s bottom line. So how do you improve patient satisfaction and boost HCAHPS scores?

Effective communication is a vital component to HCAHPS success. And with a growing number of limited-English speakers in the United States, so is the quality of your health system’s medical interpreting.


“In medicine, good communication is the action most highly praised by patients and families. ‘My nurse explained to me…’ and, ‘the doctor sat and talked to us…’ are phrases associated with high HCAHPS scores. You never see a comment card saying, ‘my nurse ran that infusion so well,’ or ‘my doctor picked the perfect antibiotic.’ The key to higher patient satisfaction scores is communication.”
-Darin Vercillo, MD, co-founder and CEO of Central Logic



Read on to learn 1) why limited-English patients factor so heavily into your patient satisfaction scores, and 2) how implementing quality medical interpreting at your facility aids in clearer communication, resulting in greater positive experiences for all of your patients.

The limited-English-speaking population is huge.

If you were to guess what percentage of the U.S. population spoke a language other than English at home, what would you guess? 5%? 10%? … How about 20%?

That’s right. One in five Americans is speaking a non-English language at home. And about 41% of this multilingual group is considered “Limited English Proficient.” That’s 25 million people in the U.S. who speak English “less than very well.”

This population represents the fastest growing segment in the United States, which means the need for medical interpretation and translation support will only become more prevalent in your health system.

Medical interpreting improves experience for all patients

  • Better Communication = Confident Patients
    Several questions on the HCAHPS survey ask about listening and explanations. That’s why you need to make sure your hospital’s staff are utilizing medical interpreters who can efficiently translate and fully explain medical procedures, prescription instructions and even admittance and discharge processes. If limited-English patients don’t understand what you’re telling them or feel they’re not being understood, they’ll translate that angst and frustration into those survey answers. But if they feel confident about their treatment and aftercare instructions, their answers will reflect their satisfaction.
  • Fast Connect Times = Quickly Cared-for Patients
    Waiting for care makes your patients agitated and unhappy. That’s just common sense. So when your facility can offer telephone interpreting connections that are fast and reliable via smart, skills-based routing, you’re able to treat all patients (including the English speakers) faster and more efficiently.
  • Qualified Interpreters = Patient Comprehension
    Dealing with inexperienced medical interpreters who don’t fully grasp the medical terminology or patient flow could lead to serious patient-provider miscommunications, medical errors and negative health outcomes. When medical interpreters are appropriately certified and experienced, language barriers dissolve, errors diminish and limited-English patients better understand their diagnosis and treatment(s).

The “halo effect” - and what it has to do with the HCAHPS Survey.

Writing in Forbes, customer service expert Micah Solomon describes the halo effect as “the tendency of humans – including patients and their loved ones – to cut you slack when they have a generally positive impression of you, how a positive experience with you will spread in their minds (and in their survey responses).”

In other words, your limited-English patients aren’t going to grade your facility and the care they received literally (like some kind of algorithm) when answering the questions in the HCAHPS survey. Instead, patients will grade you on patient-provider communication and how your staff made them feel overall.


Are you supporting your limited-English patients with exceptional language services? Download our infographic to visualize how high-quality medical interpreting can increase patient satisfaction, reduce readmission rates and improve the other quality measures that drive reimbursements.
Take Your Healthcare System to the Next Level with Unified Language Support

Topics: Healthcare, Medical Interpreting

Matt Schuh

Written by Matt Schuh

VP, Sales & Strategy at GLOBO