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Enhancing the Patient Check-in Experience With Language Access

Patient check-in process

The number of people with limited-English proficiency (LEP) living in the U.S. is large — and growing.

Approximately 20% of the entire U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home, with 25 million considered Limited-English proficient. Often, effective care is hard to access due to language differences.

Patient journey mapping is an excellent tool for outlining all of the critical touchpoints a patient goes through when receiving medical care. When it comes to language access, every touchpoint should be carefully considered, especially because limited-English speakers are at high risk of facing health disparities. However, the initial points of contact can set the stage for how the rest of the patient's experience goes and the quality of the care they receive. Therefore, a positive check-in experience is critical for LEP patients.

The Importance of a Positive Check-in Experience for LEP Patients

For most patients, check-in is the first face-to-face touchpoint. This pertinent process involves both gathering information from the patient and supplying information to the patient about the care they will receive. In the case of an emergency situation, check-in also means triage to determine the next steps to make sure the patient gets adequate care. Wrong impressions, miscommunications, and confusion at this point in the journey can generate a host of problems and put the patient at risk.

A positive check-in experience means:

  • The patient feels confident they have communicated their symptoms effectively
  • The patient's medical history and care needs are well understood by the staff
  • The patient feels comfortable moving through the journey and receiving care

Limited-English speakers may already be apprehensive about seeking care, either due to perceived discrimination or fear of difficulties with communication. A positive check-in reassures the patient that seeking care was the right decision.

How Language Access Enhances the Patient Check-in Experience

Even though there is legislation meant to ensure LEP patients have access to an interpreter, one study found that 43% of hospitalized LEP patients did not have access to an interpreter during admission. Translation support and quality medical interpreting are known to improve patient experiences in many respects, including overall quality of care and satisfaction with the care received.

A high-quality language access plan can support an optimal check-in experience for LEP patients and provide a more culturally competent environment for catering to a diverse population. Below are a few types of language services, plus how they support positive admissions or check-in experiences.


Translation ensures administrators and staff have written materials to give patients in their preferred language. For example, a simple translated intake form ensures the patient understands what information the care provider needs about symptoms, medical insurance, and more.

Having certain documents on hand can also enhance the patient check-in experience. For example, a "Point to Your Language" poster ensures the administration staff knows what language the patient would be most competent in speaking. This would allow them to arrange for proper language services, such as a telephone interpreter, during their visit.

Telephone and/or Video Interpretation

Telephone and video interpretation gives the LEP patient and the staff member a reliable two-way line of communication. Instead of relying on an accompanying family member, friend, or rudimentary translation, a professional interpreter ensures clear, consistent, and efficient communication and understanding between everyone involved.

On-site Interpretation

On-site interpretation may not be feasible for every limited-English speaking patient due to geographical limitations, but depending on the situation, it may be a preferred option.


Enhance the LEP Patient Journey With Language Access

Enhancing the patient journey for limited-English speakers requires attention to what that patient needs on every level, with language access being a large part of the process.

Want to learn more about providing quality care to limited-English speaking patients? Download our free whitepaper, Best Practices for Working with an Interpreter.


Additional Resources