Introducing the Language Access Portal

From the article by Kelli Carrington on NIMHD Insights:

Many of us know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed during a doctor’s visit by information about health conditions, medicines, and behavior recommendations. For patients who don’t speak or understand English fluently, the situation can be more than overwhelming—it can be dangerous. Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) are nearly three times more likely to have an adverse medical outcome.1

Language is one of the most significant barriers to health literacy, the ability to understand the basic health information needed to make good health decisions. Patients who lack health literacy are often unable to read or understand written health information or to speak with their healthcare providers about their symptoms or concerns. These patients are less likely to follow important health recommendations or be able to give informed consent.2

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 1 in 5 U.S. residents don’t speak English at home. Of that group, about 4 in 10, or 25 million people, have limited English proficiency.3 Many people with limited proficiency also live in households where no one speaks English well, meaning there isn’t a translator readily available to accompany them to doctor’s visits.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) is committed to addressing these language barriers and to improving the health literacy and lives of everyone living in America. We’re excited to announce a new tool, the Language Access Portal, as a resource for the NIMHD research community, public and community health professionals, healthcare providers, and others who work with health disparity populations with LEP. The portal improves access to cross-cultural and linguistically appropriate health information produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIMHD, and other federal agencies.

The Language Access Portal pulls together health resources from across NIH in selected languages, particularly those languages spoken by populations experiencing significant health disparities. As we launch, the portal includes information in Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog, Korean, and Vietnamese. The portal currently has language resources for the following areas where health disparities have been identified:

Read the full article.

Reducing Errors for Patients with Limited English

When an untrained interpreter helps a patient communicate with his/her healthcare provider, errors in medical interpretation are common. However, the error rate is cut in half when a trained medical interpreter is used reports a study recently published in the journal Medical Care published by Wolters Kluwers.

To understand the error rates between ad hoc interpreters and trained interpreters, the researchers audiotaped 32 primary care visits with Spanish-speaking patients at a public hospital clinic. The recordings were transcribed and analyzed. The analysis showed:

  • Errors of omission and answering for the patient or health care professional were the most common types of interpreter errors.
  • Errors were about twice as common in visits with ad hoc interpreters: 54 percent, compared to 25 percent with trained interpreters.
  • About seven percent of errors were rated clinically significant: for example, an incorrect drug dosage or inaccurately describing the patient’s symptoms.
  • The odds of a clinically significant error were about 75 percent lower in visits with trained in-person interpreters compared to ad hoc interpreters.

Read a full description of the study.