ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

How to Provide a Seamless Digital Healthcare Experience for Multilingual Consumers

Whether it’s through websites, apps, patient portals, SMS, or chat, healthcare consumers are demanding the same, seamless digital experiences they’ve grown accustomed to from retail, banking, and other industries. And research found non-native speakers are more likely to use things like online chat, text messaging with their provider and email, compared to native English speakers.

For LEP populations—an estimated 68 million people—however, efforts have thus far been either non-existent or ad-hoc at best, despite the fact that the U.S. diverse population continues to grow.

For health plans, seamless digital experiences are critical since customer experience metrics now determine 57% of the overall Star ratings. And considering that the average Medicare Beneficiary has 43 Medicare Advantage plans to choose from, digital is no longer negotiable. Healthcare organizations that tailor communications to their patients and members’ diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds demonstrate that their unique needs and experiences are understood, and that goes a long way in boosting trust, increasing engagement, and enhancing the experience.

How To Create a Culturally-Relevant Experience

Whether you’re launching new digital experience or looking for ways to improve what you already have in place, here are some considerations, ULG’s Director of Healthcare Accounts, Leslie Iburg, shared with us:

1. Prioritize the overall strategy.

Healthcare organizations that are launching efforts to improve the digital experience for multicultural populations shouldn’t do so to simply check a box or satisfy compliance requirement alone.

Rather, they should think about the overall, long-term strategy and the patient/member experience throughout the journey.

For example, translating website service pages but not health education pages doesn’t ensure a seamless, positive experience. Or, failing to provide a mobile app prevents members who don’t have a computer from accessing the information they need and engaging with their providers.

2. Identify language preference and cultural drivers upfront.

Every healthcare organization is gathering data about demographics, but race and ethnicity alone are not enough. It’s also important to consider that communication styles, preferences, and channels aren’t a one-size-fits-all approach and may differ depending on various languages, age, and health need.

Identifying and breaking down language barriers simplifies the entire experience, ensuring individuals can easily access, navigate, and utilize their care and benefits.

The best place to start is to have an understanding of your audience’s language preferences, specific cultural drivers, and channel preferences (i.e. text, phone, video, and email)—all of which influence engagement.

For example, 72% of patients say a bilingual patient portal would strengthen the patient-provider relationship and 77% say it would improve the quality of care, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found.

3. Ensure a consistent experience.

Multilingual members and patients should have the same digital experiences as their English-speaking peers, yet oftentimes, that’s not the case. Rather, the experience is highly fragmented.

For example, perhaps one channel is accessible in their native language, but others are not. Or a website is translated in their preferred language but when they use the chat function, they’re not able to communicate because the customer service representative only speaks English.

The experience, therefore, isn’t patient-centered or personalized. Not only are gaps likely to occur, but patient and member loyalty can suffer. In fact, 66% of consumers say they will stop using a brand if their experience isn’t personalized, a 2023 report by Twilio found.

Healthcare organizations must ensure a consistent, seamless, and inclusive experience at every touchpoint. Patients and members should be able to effortlessly navigate through services and benefits so they can easily access the information they need and understand the services and resources available to them.

4. Take into account cultural considerations.

Along with translation and interpretation, every digital experience should take into account cultural preferences and cultural intelligence, which includes beliefs and how diverse populations make healthcare decisions.

Communications can be adapted in a way that considers a certain population’s cultural background, practices, and beliefs, as well as their engagement preferences.

Healthcare organizations should also avoid making assumptions about how someone engages with the healthcare system. For example, while some Spanish-speaking patients may prefer a Spanish speaking doctor, others may not.

Another area that is often overlooked are healthcare terms in written content. Words may be technically translated correctly but slight variations or different styles of translation can create confusion—and a fragmented and negative experience. Therefore, healthcare terms should be described in the same linguistically correct way in every channel and for every instance.

5. Consider accessibility and alternative formats

One of the priorities of CMS’ Health Equity Framework for 2022-2032 is to ensure that all individuals can access healthcare services when and where they need them, in a way that is responsive to their needs and preferences.

As healthcare organizations look to develop their digital strategies, they must think about LEP members who may also have disabilities such as visual impairments that can affect how they read or access information.

such as large print, braille, and audio is critical. Also, online content and electronic documents may need to be adjusted for those that have visual, auditory, mobility, or other disabilities.

These options should also be offered to any patient or member whether or not they disclose an impairment to ensure optimal engagement.

How A Language Service Provider Can Support

In the digital age of healthcare, delivering a seamless experience for diverse populations is paramount. A holistic approach considers language, culture, and accessibility is needed to foster trust, engagement, and empowerment, embodying quality care in our evolving landscape.

Our help you implement the best mix of and that enable healthcare organizations to create accessible, seamless experiences. We also provide culturally relevant communications at every touchpoint within the experience to help ensure consistency, connection and build trust with multilingual healthcare consumers. 

To learn more about ULG's healthcare translation services, contact us today.