Changing Demographics: What's the Impact for the Healthcare Industry?


The demographical changes in our country are staggering. According to U.S. Census data, limited English proficient (LEP) populations grew 80 percent from 1990-2013, and the 2013 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, found roughly 41 percent (25.1 million people) were considered LEP.

LEP refers to anyone older than five who reported speaking English less than “very well.” Although the majority of LEP individuals surveyed were immigrants, nearly 19 percent (4.7 million) were born in the United States, most to immigrant parents.

And these numbers are only going to increase. The U.S. continues to attract more immigrants than any other country in the world, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Immigrants join the melting pot of America by becoming citizens, legal permanent residents, or by seeking humanitarian protection and bringing more than 300 indigenous and immigrant languages with them. In 2013, approximately 61.6 million individuals, foreign and U.S. born, spoke a language other than English at home.


What does this mean for the healthcare industry?

Healthcare organizations are required by both federal and state laws to provide language access to these patients. Providing timely access to high-quality language services can prevent healthcare organizations from facing legal and regulatory consequences stemming from noncompliance with federal and state laws, including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

LEP patients are at risk for adverse events due to their lack of understanding if they don’t have effective access to healthcare in their native language. According to the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association, “language barriers result in poor understanding of diagnosis, treatment, and medication instructions; poor understanding of and compliance with recommendations for treatment and follow-up; a significantly greater likelihood of a serious medical event; and lower patient satisfaction.”

LEP patients also suffer temporary harm or death twice as often as English-speaking patients, according to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Communication breakdowns cause nearly 3,000 unexpected patient deaths every year and the majority of these involve LEP patients.

Using qualified medical interpreting reduces risk to providers that can be caused by ineffective communication. The AHRQ warns that not having an effective language access program in place can increase provider exposure to the following potential liabilities:

  • Patient comprehension of their medical condition, treatment plan, discharge instructions, complications and follow-up
  • Inaccurate and incomplete medical history
  • Ineffective or improper use of medications or serious medication errors
  • Improper preparation for tests and procedures
  • Poor or inadequate informed consent

What can an effective language access program deliver?

At InDemand, we strongly believe that every patient in any medical setting should receive the highest quality healthcare, regardless of language, cultural background or disability. Video remote interpreting (VRI) services have afforded healthcare providers a new and more cost-effective way to meet the demand of the changing demographic of our country, impacting the efficiency of the clinical process by providing on-demand availability of medical interpreting with a human touch.

Through millions of patient encounters with VRI, we have supported healthcare organizations develop and deploy language service programs based on best practices. Today we offer a variety of products and services to provide immediate, secure access to highly trained, medically qualified interpreters who support an exceptional experience for your patients while ensuring their safety.

With a focus solely on medical interpretation, and an emphasis on culturally competent and nationally certified interpreters, our standards for interpreters is unparalleled throughout the industry.  We also offer interpreting in a wide variety of diffuse languages to serve these diverse populations. In fact, we have facilitated over two million interpreting sessions for LEP, Deaf and hard of hearing patients.

For more information, please contact me.

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