Healthcare organizations across the country strive to give the best possible treatment to everyone who walks through their doors. However, there are serious barriers to true health equity, no matter how compassionate the healthcare team is. Without acknowledging these challenges and leveraging technology to address them head-on, healthcare executives are preventing equal treatment for all patients.
The Prevalence of Healthcare Disparities
The first step to true health equity is learning more about the problem. There are significant disparities that exist across different patient populations, whether they be due to socioeconomic status, culture, or language barriers. Each of these components, directly and indirectly, affects the patient’s chances of receiving appropriate treatment in a timely manner during their stay in the hospital.
For people who speak another language besides English, receiving the best treatment possible can be difficult. Limited English proficiency (LEP) patients are especially vulnerable to increased lengths of stay and readmission rates. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the average length of stay for LEP patients who do not have access to an interpreter on admission and discharge at a hospital is 1.5 days longer than for LEP patients with an interpreter. Longer stays mean not only increased costs for the patient and the hospital but also an increased risk of infection. But the disparities do not end there.
LEP patients are also at an increased risk for readmission after a hospital stay. The same study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine notes that readmission rates for LEP patients without access to an interpreter are 9.4 percentage points higher than for LEP patients with access to an interpreter. The study also notes that to reduce the risk of hospital readmission, the LEP patient must have access to an interpreter on both the day of admission and the day of discharge, at a minimum. Assistance with understanding discharge instructions, such as medication protocols and follow-up appointments, is a major component of discharge success.
How Video Remote Interpreting Is Reducing Barriers to Quality Care Access
Language access is a serious topic in healthcare organization boardrooms across the country, and for good reason. The United States Census reports that approximately 61.6 million individuals speak a language other than English at home, with more than 41 percent of that group being considered LEP. If these 25 million individuals come into a healthcare setting speaking English less than “very well,” how can we expect them to communicate their needs and concerns to an English-speaking care team?
Fortunately, technology has given healthcare organizations the opportunity to increase their access to medically qualified interpreters. Less than a decade ago, interpreters were available to patients only in person. Hospitals and other acute care settings were limited by the interpreters’ availability, and interpreters were not always able to speak the language needed. Now, video remote interpreting has given healthcare organizations the ability to connect to a medically qualified interpreter for nearly any language (including American Sign Language) at any time.
Medically qualified interpreters, available through InDemand Interpreting’s video remote interpreting services, are changing the game for the vulnerable LEP patient population. When LEP patients are able to communicate in their preferred language, they are given the chance to express their symptoms and medical history as well as hear instructions and follow-up care recommendations. Without an interpreter, LEP patients can be put through unnecessary tests or procedures for diagnostic purposes. With an interpreter, LEP patients can communicate confidently and advocate for their best care.
But access to a medically qualified interpreter is not enough. There needs to be access to that preferred communication as soon as possible. Using Video Remote Interpreting, patients can begin interpretation immediately, assuring there are no delays in consent or treatment. This immediate access to interpretation services is important in all acute healthcare settings, but especially crucial in units like the emergency room, labor and delivery, or pre-surgery. Access is valuable, but immediate access can save unnecessary anxiety, testing, or frustration.
Access to video remote interpreting improves communication and increases patient safety, giving healthcare organizations the chance to increase health equity across all special populations. However, video remote interpreting services work only when paired with an organization committed to providing reliable equipment with rapid interpreting speeds. When a healthcare organization makes the wise decision to work with InDemand Interpreting, it can be confident its investment will result in increased patient satisfaction and decreased costs associated with readmissions and unnecessary procedures.
Learn more about what to look for in an interpreting service by downloading How to Select a VRI Provider. Commit your organization to providing equal healthcare treatment and access to everyone, no matter their preferred language. You will see the benefits quickly, and so will your patients and investors.