Hospital Language Access is a Matter of Life or Death

June 20, 2016

By: Carol Velandia, MBA, CHI, PMP
Interpreters Division of the American Translators Association

Approximately 25 million people in the United States are defined as being Limited English Proficient or LEP. A LEP person cannot speak, read, write, or understand the English language at a level that permits them to interact effectively with English speakers.

In the hospital setting, good communication is crucial; it is actually a matter of life and death. Limited English proficiency and failure to provide professional medical interpretation and translation leads to medical errors based on poor communication during diagnosis and care. The LEP population presents disproportionately longer lengths of stay at the hospital, more surgical delays, surgical infections and falls than the rest of the population. They often fail to understand how to take their medications, prepare for surgery or understand what is involved in the procedure that they are about to undergo.

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