Resource-challenged hospitals have long struggled to meet the needs of patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), often relying on ad hoc interpreters to communicate with these individuals. However, such shortcuts carry risks, and with the increasing diversity of the population, there is a new push by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights and other organizations for hospitals to make the investments needed to ensure effective communications between providers and LEP patients.

  • Experts note that many hospitals across the country lack a basic foundation for communicating with LEP patients.
  • Many hospitals with dedicated interpreter services haven’t built the systems or trained staff to use these services effectively.
  • Experts advise ED providers to collect and track English proficiency data on all patients, and provide trained medical interpreters to all LEP patients and families.
  • Printed materials, such as discharge instructions and prescriptions, also must be translated into a patient’s native language, and these materials must be reviewed with the patient with the help of a translator.