nurse assisting an elderly patient

In 2009, I went to a business networking luncheon. The Marketing Director of a major hospital campus in my neighborhood told me to scoot over in a booth I was sitting at because she wanted to sit next to me to talk. She had heard that my company specializes in multicultural marketing and maybe, just maybe, I could help her tackle a situation she was faced with. The hospital had recently completed a community assessment and discovered that over 40% of the patients that went to their emergency room were Hispanic. “I have no idea what to do with this information!” she added.

The healthcare industry has been an early adopter of linguistic and cultural proficiency for two reasons. First, there is a federal mandate known as the CLAS standards of care (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) that offers a detailed blueprint for healthcare providers to follow. Second, and more importantly, medical professionals that do not have the proper language and culture prowess to address the needs of diverse patients can do more harm than good.

From a business standpoint, the ability of a health organization to provide patient-centered care is measured by their ability to create an environment that is conducive to delivering equal access to quality care. It is well documented by research that patients from multicultural communities suffer from heightened levels of fear and stress when they face a language barrier or when their traditions and cultural preferences are overlooked. While there are many other factors that create healthcare disparities for diverse communities, such as income, health literacy, food deserts in underserved communities that limit access to fresh produce, and lack of transportation, language and culture proficiency are factors that healthcare systems can control.

It is becoming increasingly important for healthcare practitioners to create a roadmap to reach, engage, and provide interventions that are linguistically and culturally sound to diverse communities. This can include:

  1. Assessing the language skills of multilingual medical staff to ensure they are able to effectively convey sensitive information throughout the continuum of care, mitigating the risk of misinformation.
  2. Establishing an Interpreting Services team of certified professionals that can provide support in real-time in the languages that are used in the community that is being served.
  3. Developing a Multicultural Toolkit that will prepare caregiving and administrative staff that interacts with patients and their families with insights on how to navigate cultural preferences and traditions.
  4. Availability of Press Ganey and HCAHPS patient surveys in various languages to have an accurate picture of your patient satisfaction score as the U.S. becomes more diverse with each passing Census.

These are some basic measures that URBANDER recommended to the Marketing Director in crisis and helped implement quickly and swiftly while crafting a more comprehensive plan for them. Our role as a cultural lens to ensure that marketing and business strategies were linguistically and culturally mindful allowed them to increase patient safety, equity, and compliance with regulatory agencies in the healthcare industry.

Are you ready to assess your multilingual employees’ language proficiency? Partner with LTI for all your language assessment needs. Learn more here.

Want to hear more from Sami? Listen to her interview with LTI here.

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