Introduction to Language Access

Language Access: Ensuring Meaningful Access to Health Care

There is a growing body of evidence that language barriers for individuals with limited English proficiency has a direct relationship to the quality of health care. Providing language assistance services can improve the quality of care and reduce health care disparities among individuals with limited English proficiency.  Language assistance services include both verbal interpretation services and written translation services.

National Council on Interpreting in Health Care Searchable Annotated Bibliography on Language Access

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a special November 2007 supplement of the Journal of General Internal Medicine is focused on language access issues, with open access to all the articles.

There are many useful resources that can help support the many reasons for improving language access, including legal and regulatory requirements, patient safety, risk management, quality improvement and disparities reduction.

Here is my presentation on how to make the multiple “cases” for language access.

There are important background resources which support the legal and regulatory requirements for language access that apply to all health care providers that receive any type or amount of federal funding (almost all health care providers):

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act Requires Language Access

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Title VI Guidance on Language Access

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services

There is growing evidence for other reasons for ensuring language access:

Joint Commission Article: Language Proficiency and Adverse Events

National Health Law Program: High Cost of Language Barriers in Medical Malpractice

Hospitals, health plans, community health centers and physician office practices have all demonstrated the feasibility and importance of ensuring language access:

Joint Commission Report: Hospitals, Language and Culture

Joint Commission Report: One Size Does Not Fit All

Joint Commission Report: Roadmap for Effective Communication, Cultural Competency and Patient- and Family-Centered Care

George Washington University: How Hospitals Use Bilingual Clinicians and Staff

Northwestern University: Facilitators and Barriers to Providing Language Services in California Public Hospitals

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Speaking Together Program

California Health Care Safety Net Institute Model Hospital Policies and Procedures on Language Access

National Committee for Quality Assurance Innovative Practices in Multicultural Health Care 2009

National Committee for Quality Assurance Innovative Practices in Multicultural Health Care 2008

National Committee for Quality Assurance Innovative Practices in Multicultural Health Care 2007

National Committee for Quality Assurance Innovative Practices in Multicultural Health Care 2006

National Association of Community Health Centers: Serving Patients with Limited English Proficiency

Association of Clinicians for the Underserved: Language Access – Understanding the Barriers and Challenges in Primary Care Settings

National Health Law Program: Language Access in Small Provider Settings

The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care has developed a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for health care interpreters.

And a national program for the certification of health care interpreters has been created by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, which is conducting its first test cycle in October and November 2010.

Finally, here are some publications which explain how federal matching funds from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program can be used by states to reimburse health care providers for language assistance services.

National Health Law Program: How States Can Get Federal Funding for Language Assistance Services

National Health Law Program: Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reimbursement for Language Assistance Services

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities Medicare Payment for Language Services

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