Many hospitals just finished putting their final procedures in place to meet the sweeping new language access requirements that went into effect last July as part of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
With a new administration promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the future of those requirements and many others remains unclear. However, some things shouldn’t change—and the need to provide quality language services is one of them. Here’s why.
Language Access Was Guaranteed As a Civil Right in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Reaffirmed in the ACA
Title VI has long prohibited discrimination based on national origin,requiring recipients of federal funding to provide meaningful to individuals who are limited English proficient. Like Title VI, language access for patients was considered a civil right under Section 1557, so hospitals, physicians, health plans, nursing homes, elder care facilities, and other health care organizations accepting federal funds were required to provide access to qualified interpreters.
If these providers didn’t comply, they risked losing federal funding.
As a result, providers worked hard to achieve compliance and provide critical language access utilizing qualified interpreters and translators to patients with limited English proficiency. This mandate has made health care more accessible for many patients who may have either skipped health care altogether or agreed to procedures they didn’t fully understand.
Language Access Is the Right Thing to Do
Health care workers are tasked with providing high-quality health care to everyone. Ensuring every patient has access to language services when they need them is part of providing that care. Every patient should be able to understand the risks and potential outcome of any medical procedure they undergo. They should be given the opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns. And every health care worker should ensure they can understand what their patients are telling them.
Access to qualified interpretation services is how health care can keep this promise to the people they serve. In these settings, miscommunications can be life-threatening.
Here are some tips to ensure your facility continues to serve its patients and family members with limited English proficiency.
- Maintain the language access systems you set up to achieve compliance with the ACA. These systems were designed to achieve the greatest benefit for patients, and there is no reason to throw them out and jeopardize the level of care you’re able to provide.
- Use professional interpreters who have been trained and had their language proficiency assessed , not just any person who speaks the target language.
- Don’t depend on family members to interpret. Unless those family members have medical training, they are likely struggling to understand the medical terminology and translate it into their native language in a potentially emotional situation. It may be difficult for them to remain calm and think clearly.
Language Access Benefits Your Bottom Line
Providing language services in healthcare is not only the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense.
When interpreters are readily available, patients receive quality care faster. Hospital staff are more efficient and can focus on their areas of expertise, rather than on interpretation. And when patients understand physicians’ orders, hospitals see fewer re-admissions.
Additionally, healthcare organizations that are rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) receive star ratings each year that impact their level of reimbursement. High-performing plans are rewarded with Quality Bonus Payments, while low-performing plans are penalized. These ratings factor in a plan’s accuracy and accessibility of providing information to members with limited English proficiency, so it pays to have comprehensive language services.
LanguageLine provides language services to reach patients at all touch points, from the first phone call to the time they receive their discharge papers. In fact, 69 percent of health care companies in the Fortune 1000 and 75 percent of Medicare plans with a 5-star rating use us as their provider.
Learn more about how our language services can increase efficiencies, enhance patient satisfaction, reduce readmissions and improve compliance.