Effective communication between the provider and patient is critical to ensure high quality care and patient safety. However, our population’s increasing diversity has significant implications for achieving these objectives, often presenting barriers to effective communication with culturally diverse patients. Recognizing the importance of this issue, NJHA formed an Interpreter and Translation Services Task Force in 2004 to review hospital services for deaf and hard of hearing and limited English proficiency patients and develop recommendations for improvement.
NJHA’s Task Force conducted a survey to collect information on hospital difficulties in arranging programs and services that would facilitate effective communication between patients and providers and determined hospitals’ specific needs in serving these patients. The survey revealed several key difficulties including:
- Cost of training and hiring interpreters
- Availability of interpreters during weekends and at night
- Availability of interpreters who speak multiple languages
- Lack of timely response from interpreters
- Patient confidentiality issues.
The survey also revealed hospitals’ major needs in serving their diverse patients including:
- availability of qualified interpreters during all stages of care
- accurate and reliable interpretation
- timely response of interpreters at all hours
- available written materials in major languages
- financial assistance in providing language services.
NJHA’s Task Force used the survey results to develop an assessment tool to help hospitals identify gaps in policies, procedures and staff training. The task force also provided specific recommendations including standardized training/educational programs, a centralized pool of interpreters for timely access and cost savings and working with Medicaid/Medicare/commercial plans to seek reimbursement for these services.