The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a spotlight on the systemic inequalities and lack of access to health care for patients and members with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Across the care continuum you can find critical touch points where disparities are present but you can also implement ways to make them disappear.
From coast-to-coast, data has shown that the LEP Hispanic/Latinx populations account for a disproportionately large percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. According to NPR, Dr. Taison Bell, the director of the medical intensive care unit at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville has seen this first hand. While doing his rounds in the COVID-19 ICU, caring for about 20 patients, he noticed that his unit was full almost entirely of Black and Latinx people, despite Charlottesville being 70% white. A quote from NPR.org he says
“I just couldn’t escape the thought of this virus disproportionately killing people in my community.”
Many other media stories highlight the likely contribution of language barriers to these disparities. Now that a COVID-19 Vaccine has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and has been administered to healthcare providers, it’s time to get prepared to administer the vaccine in an equitable way to our communities.
As suggested in this article, these are ways healthcare practitioners can ensure health equity for those with LEP. Those pieces of guidance should also be practiced for in administering the vaccine.
Here are 6 ways you can provide an equitable vaccine experience – where each step in the process is in the preferred language and medium.
1. Give a direct line for inbound calls in language
A personalized phone number that connects directly to an interpreter, also known as Direct Connect, will keep patients coming back to your organization. When you can provide an experience with the first touch being in a patient’s native language, you’ll not only earn the trust from that one person but the tight knit community they reside.
2. Translate and localize the online appointment process
Across generations many tend to lean toward an online experience. Online appointment making is starting to make headway so if you have had to implement this because of the COVID-19 pandemic, take it one step further in providing it in language.
3. Translate and localize a patient’s online portal
When communicating about appointments and access health records, make the patient’s portal in language. Access to one place for patient education and after-visit summaries will increase health literacy and health outcomes.
4. Be prepared with translated consent forms and after visit summaries
When patients are making their appointment, implement a translation and localization workflow that is completely automated. This will ensure forms are ready and the appointment can start without issues.
5. Provide a medically qualified interpreter during the appointment
Bi-lingual staff might be the more cost-effective option but there are language nuances that are often missed. Which continues the cycle of poor health outcomes. Providing an interpreter whether over-the-phone (OPI) through video (VRI) or on-site will ensure communicative autonomy of all. View our language list.
6. Have one interpreter for continuous outbound follow-up calls
When you need to make multiple calls for a specific language, keep your interpreter on the line for each call. Whether it’s following up to confirm appointments or conducting patient experience surveys, Community Connect will make your calls more efficient and provide continued compassionate communication.
Watch this video on a how one phone number completely changes the experience for a patient with LEP.
Language services are not meant to be one-size fits all. They’re meant to be tailored and personalized to minimize health disparities and provide equitable access with care. Healthcare providers can implement all these solutions while being cost conscious. We will work with your organization to implement the most effective and cost neutral suite of services – because we abide by the vision of our organization: To create a world where language is no longer a barrier.