How Qualified Medical Interpreters Can Improve Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS Scores

    

Today’s healthcare providers are facing the monumental challenge of meeting the communication needs of an ever-growing, diverse patient population, while moving to a value-based care delivery model. This new model requires providers to improve patient outcomes and reduce treatment disparities, follow legal mandates, reduce risk exposure while delivering patient-centered care that meets the needs of all patients regardless of language, cultural background or disability. Clearly, this is not an easy task and requires substantial resources to monitor and track progress. Read more about how to improve HCAHPS Scores.  

One of the key metrics healthcare facilities use to track patient outcomes and satisfaction is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), a standardized survey of hospital patients that captures their unique perspectives on care for the purpose of providing the public with comparable information on a healthcare facility’s quality.

The standardized survey includes a set of data collection and reporting procedures that are used by healthcare facilities to gather feedback from patients about the care they received. HCAHPS is part of a public/private partnership dedicated to publicly reporting valid and comparable information on hospital care quality. This information is designed to increase consumer awareness of hospital care and provides hospitals with data and benchmarks to gauge their performance against other providers.

Effective Communication is a Key Measurement of HCAHPS Outcomes

Providing effective language access to support patient-provider communication is not only important for improving HCAHPS scores, but it is also federally mandated. If an organization receives Medicare, Medicaid or reimbursement from federal health programs, legally the they have an obligation to provide language access services to limited English proficient (LEP) and Deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) patients.

This also means using untrained interpreters is a violation of HIPPA laws. Providers must use “qualified” medical interpreters when treating LEP, Deaf and HOH patients. Having above-average familiarity with speaking or understanding a language other than English does not suffice as qualified. Interpreters must meet concrete standards and have documented proof of testing that they are qualified to interpret in a healthcare setting.

How are Hospitals Improving Patient-Provider Communication to Increase Outcomes? 

Utilizing effective technology to support patient-provider communication can provide the necessary vehicle to reduce disparities, support improved clinical effectiveness and enhance the patient experience. Medical facilities that utilize qualified medical interpreters have scored higher in patient satisfaction surveys than those that don’t. To improve communication between clinicians and their limited English proficient, Deaf and hard of hearing patients, providers are partnering with high performing, technology-enabled, Healthcare interpreting solutions that improve communication such as video remote interpreting (VRI). But regardless of which solution is used, most importantly healthcare organizations should offer experienced, credentialed and medically qualified interpreters, who are central to delivering effective communication for patients and providers, and ultimately, can help improve HCAHPS scores. 

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