Quick and accurate communication is imperative in hospital settings.
A Somali man rushes into the A & E with his young son, who has fallen from the balcony of their second-story flat. Although the boy has no visible injuries, his father is concerned he may have a concussion and internal bleeding. He tries frantically to communicate with emergency room personnel using gestures and the few English phrases he has learned since moving to the United Kingdom six months earlier.
A nurse quickly places a video call to a Somali interpreter, who can relay the man’s concerns to her. Within minutes, the boy undergoes a CAT scan and receives appropriate treatment and monitoring. He is able to return home with his father later that evening.
Without video remote interpreting, this scenario could have played out much differently. While other industries demand to see a return on investment in raw cash, the ROI of language services in health care is often measured by the absence of something.
Here are five ways health care professionals measure the impact of their investment in language services.
1. Fewer scheduling errors
Patients with limited English proficiency are more likely to miss appointments or show up at the wrong time because of breakdowns in communication with health care staff. Since physicians’ schedules are set well in advance, these scheduling errors can add up to hours of wasted time and lost revenue. Over-the-phone health care interpreter services help to bridge language gaps, reducing scheduling errors.
2. Shorter patient wait times
Language barriers can slow down the registration process, increasing patient wait times and reducing patient satisfaction. Research from the Nuffield Trust found that average wait times in A & E across the country ranged from 146-165 minutes, times which have a direct impact on patient satisfaction.
Using video remote interpreting to communicate with patients who have limited English proficiency can reduce patient wait times and increase patient flow, contributing to higher revenue and improved patient satisfaction.
3. Fewer medical errors
When lives are on the line and every second counts, miscommunication can contribute to misdiagnoses or even life-threatening medical errors.
The use of a professional health care interpreter greatly reduces this risk. In America, a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that nonprofessional interpreters (such as family or friends) had a 22 percent error rate compared to professionals, who had a 2 percent error rate. Of the 1,900 errors noted in the study, 18 percent of them could have had serious consequences to a patient’s health.
4. Improved outcomes
Hospital discharge instructions can be confusing enough for a person who speaks the same language as their physician, and language barriers make it even more difficult to follow directions. When patients understand how to properly care for themselves upon their release, they tend to have better health outcomes.
Translating patient education materials, discharge instructions, and other vital documents that are critical to a patient’s care enables patients to take responsibility for their recovery.
5. Reduced readmission rates
Preventable readmissions have become a huge frustration for hospitals across the country. A number of factors put patients at a higher risk for readmission, but language barriers certainly play a role. When patients can follow doctors’ orders, they are significantly less likely to be readmitted for complications.
Working with a language services provider that offers a full range of solutions, from phone interpreting to video remote interpreting, allows you to keep costs in check while maximizing the benefits to your patients and your bottom line.