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Executive Priorities in Healthcare and the Impact of Quality Language Services

Healthcare Executive Priorities CyraCom Whitepaper Joint Commission Section 1557 Readmission HCAHPS Patient Safety

Quality language services have never been more critical to ensuring success in the healthcare metrics executives care about – but they may not understand why. As the leading provider of language services to hospitals and healthcare organizations, CyraCom developed this education resource to help

Language services leaders make the case for a quality language access program.

Healthcare executives understand the impact limited-English proficient () patients, and the care they receive, have on overall priorities.

Procurement teams consider choosing a language services provider based on quality, avoiding the repercussions that can result from prioritizing short-term cost.

Here are five critical metrics for healthcare providers and an explanation of how a quality language services program impacts them:



  1. Use Qualified Interpreters for all LEP Patient Interactions

HHS’s 2016 guidance on Section 1557 requires “qualified interpreters”. Being bilingual is insufficient; rather, HHS states that a qualified interpreter must:

  • Ensure Remote Interpretation Partners Meet Section 1557’s Quality Standards

1557 permits hospitals and healthcare organizations to use qualified phone and video interpreters if the technology involved meets the quality standards set for ASL interpretation by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Download our Whitepaper, The New Law on Language Access, to Learn More About 1557 Compliance



Why it Matters to Executives:

Many states rely on a hospital’s Joint Commission accreditation to determine whether the hospital should receive and retain state licensure, a requirement to operate.

The Role of Quality Language Services:

  • Passed Language Proficiency Testing
  • Training in interpretation best practices
  • Interpreting experience in a healthcare setting
  • Knowledge of medical terminology

The  standards also require that vital documents be translated into commonly encountered languages, using qualified translators to help ensure accuracy and readability.

Joint Commission surveyors assess hospital compliance in two ways:

  1. Do staff follow hospital policy on the use of interpreters for LEP patient encounters?
  2. Does the hospital’s policy reflects current professional practice standards?

Joint Commission section adapted from an article written for CyraCom by Amy Wilson-Stronks, MPP, CPHQ. Read the full version here.



Why it Matters to Executives:

CMS withheld $564 million in Medicare reimbursements to more than 2,500 hospitals for failing to reduce unnecessary patient readmission rates in 2017.

The Role of Quality Language Services:

Improving communication with LEP patients will likely have an outsized impact on a hospital’s overall readmission rates, as non-English speakers readmit at a significantly higher rate than the general population. Research suggests the language barrier is to blame, since readmissions increase when patients do not:

  • Understand their diagnosis
  • Know which medications to take and when
  • Comprehend important information or test results
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment with their doctor
  • Receive adequate care at home

Using qualified, professional interpreters – whether on staff or via phone or video interpretation – at every stage in the continuum of care may reduce these miscommunications and misunderstandings.

Learn More about Reducing Readmissions in our Whitepaper: The Cost of Miscommunication



Why it Matters to Executives:

Large systems stand to gain or lose significant reimbursements based on how their HCAHPS scores. 2% of annual Medicare reimbursement depends on hospital performance, and HCAHPS determines 30% of that performance rating.

The Role of Quality Language Services:

Offering high-quality language access to LEP patients may succeed at improving HCAHPS scores. These patients represent an opportunity because they tend to rate hospitals worse than English-speaking patients.

Negative experiences during treatment likely play a role. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that LEP patients are:

  • 9x more likely to have trouble understanding a medical scenario
  • 4x more likely to misunderstand medication labels
  • 4x more likely to have a bad reaction to medication

NCBI concluded that patients who spoke a different language than their providers reported worse interpersonal care and were more likely to rate providers poorly when surveyed. But NCBI also learned that:

“Hospitals with greater cultural competency have better HCAHPS scores for doctor communication, hospital rating, and hospital recommendation. Furthermore, HCAHPS scores for minorities were higher at hospitals with greater cultural competency on four other dimensions: nurse communication, staff responsiveness, quiet room, and pain control.”


“Quality of interpretation correlates with patient understanding and satisfaction with the encounter,” whereas relying on untrained bilingual individuals to interpret “appears to have many negative clinical consequences including reduced trust in physicians [and] lower patient satisfaction.”

Download our Improving HCAHPS Whitepaper to Learn More



Why it Matters to Executives:

A hospital’s CMS Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating may impact perception and reputation of the organization, both locally and nationally. A poor rating may motivate potential patients to consider other facilities for non-emergency procedures, harming hospital financials.

The Role of Quality Language Services:

Hospitals with a high percentage of LEP patients may find that improving these patients’ experience boosts CMS star rating. LEP patients readmit at higher rates and report lower patient satisfaction than their English-speaking counterparts – both critical factors in determining a hospital’s CMS star rating.

Patient mortality and safety comprises 44% of a hospital’s total CMS score. Statistically, non-English speaking patients experience an outsized percentage of adverse events, longer hospital stays, and misunderstandings, resulting in unnecessary and potentially counter-productive treatment.

The Journal for Healthcare Quality has

Convenient:       Interpreter resources like phones and video carts should be kept close and accessible to staff.

Understood:      Language service providers should provide quality training and implementation.

Simple:                Connecting to an interpreter should be easy, with few steps.

Fast:                     Wait times for remote interpreters should average seconds, not minutes.

Effective:            Quality of interpretation provided should be consistently high.

Learn More About CM Hospital Star Ratings – and How Better LEP Interactions can impact by them – in our whitepaper


By emphasizing their role in achieving compliance with Section 1557 and Joint Commission standards, as well as their impact on critical metrics like readmission rates, HCAHPS scores, and CMS hospital star ratings, language services leaders in healthcare can make a convincing case that an investment in quality language services will tangibly impact executive-level priorities. Do you need assistance presenting the value of language service to your executive team? Contact CyraCom today to learn how we can help.


is the leading provider of language services to hospitals and healthcare organizations, and its interpretation and translation solutions are exclusively endorsed by American Hospital Association. CyraCom provides clients with access to qualified interpreters and translators – certified employees with 120 hours of training working in secure, large-scale US interpreter contact centers – for compliance with the standards set by Section 1557 and the Joint Commission. CyraCom believes this dedication to quality helps to prevent the miscommunications that lead to unnecessary readmissions and reduced LEP patient satisfaction, as well as the adverse outcomes that threaten patient safety and negatively impact CMS star ratings.


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Mailing Address: CyraCom | 5780 North Swan Road | Tucson, Arizona 85718



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