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6 Ways Language Services Assist in Patient Advocacy

With patient populations diversifying, language services are becoming an important aspect of the patient advocate’s job. At this year’s Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy’s annual conference, SHCA discussed its 9 Domains of Practice that have been identified as critical skills and knowledge for patient and consumer advocates.

Since CyraCom attended the event as a silver sponsor, we wanted to share with you how language services fit into 5 of the 9 domains:

Image Source: SHCA Domains of PracticeTM

1. Patient rightsThe Right to Language Access

Patients have rights to receive healthcare provision in their native language, as outlined by federal mandates and Joint Commission standards. To meet these requirements, patient advocates should ensure that their organization has aLanguage Assistance Plan, which demonstrates a commitment to following language access procedures to auditors.

2. Measuring Patient Satisfaction Measure Satisfaction by Language, Ethnicity

Certain minority groups are more likely to be dissatisfied with their healthcare, especially when compared to non-Latino whites (see this study for instance), so some health systems measure patient satisfaction by ethnicity and language preference. One way of doing this is to provide translated “Patient Satisfaction Questionnaires,” along with translated vital documents (consent forms, discharge instructions, etc).

3. Customer Service / Service Excellence Language and Cultural Competency

Customer service initiatives that promote interpretation services and the hiring of bilingual staff bolster service excellence for non-English speakers. In addition to supporting the languages, all staff members can be educated on patient cultural competency.

4. Data Management Keep a Language Record

The Joint Commission requires that patients’ preferred language be identified and tracked. Ask patients their preferred spoken language or use language identification cards. Afterwards, note the patient’s language in his/her medical record.

The American Hospital Association has found that leading hospitals are analyzing the language data they collect and are using it to provide better patient care. Some of the best practices that have emerged include using dashboards to track performance in quality areas, filtered by language, race and socioeconomic status; informing patients about and customizing language service offerings; and reviewing KPIs such as length of stay, admissions and avoidable readmissions.

5. Healthcare Management Improve Hospital Bottom Line by Changing how Minorities are Served

Of the many challenges facing health leaders today, eliminating healthcare disparities among minorities is one of the most prevalent. Fortunately, through Affordable Care Act legislation, provisions have been made for making healthcare more affordable for underserved populations, developing community-based strategies to eliminate local health barriers, and improving the diversity of the healthcare workforce and making it more culturally competent.

At each of these steps, providing language services is a key element. If hospitals can communicate accurately with these groups, they can decrease medical errors, length of stays, and readmission rates.



CyraCom’s interpretation and translation solutions are exclusively endorsed by the American Hospital Association. With ISO 9001:2008 certified quality processes, US-based medically-trained interpreters, and a dedicated account management team, we are equipped to meet your patients’ language needs. 

Learn how quality language services impact executive-level priorities in healthcare  Download Whitepaper