Archive for August 31, 2009

As technology moves forward it must take LEP patients with it

You would have to be living in cave to avoid the discussion of healthcare and healthcare reform these days. It is everywhere it seems. Not surprisingly, some of the debate is focusing on how technology should best figure in helping healthcare reinvent itself.

Recently President Obama visited the Cleveland Clinic, identifying the facility as a great example of how medical facilities can incorporate appropriate technology to improve care while cutting costs. But there are other examples, including what’s being called “virtual care.” Sites like American Well represent a new way of looking at patient care.

Based in Boston, American Well seeks to give consumers and physicians a new way to come together for the purpose of receiving and dispensing what it calls “convenient and immediate healthcare services.” By exploiting the Web and digital telephony technology, the idea is to bring healthcare right into patients’ homes.

As an English-speaking patient myself, I’m excited about the prospect for such innovations. As one who anticipates the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) patients, I’m concerned that their needs don’t figure in the development of such technological advancements.

American Well does offer language choices, but the site does not identify what they are. And the fact that the site itself is only in English would made it difficult for a great many to know that the resources offered are also offered to them. And that gesture is a necessary piece for true and meaningful healthcare access.

Good health!
Chanin

Enforcing language access will empower healthcare translation

We talk a lot about language access at viaLanguage. Not only does it figure as a regular subject in this blog, but it really informs our mission as a company. Those in healthcare know that there are a number of laws on the books regarding language access. But enforcement has done little to ensure such laws are followed. A group in New York is looking to change that.

It started last year when New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General alleging that pharmacies in the state were not providing sufficient translation and interpretation to their limited English proficient (LEP) customers.

The result went their way when it was concluded that seven chain pharmacies, including Costco, Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart and others, were not living up to the law. In April, the companies entered into a settlement agreement and dedicated themselves to improving.

But only Rite-Aid seems to understand that aside from being the law, it’s actually in their best interest to do so. Rite-Aid correctly identified an economic opportunity in its providing access to the growing LEP market. So, rather than just make changes in New York, the company is addressing all its stores nationwide.

The reality is that by providing greater language access, companies better serve their customers, or in the case of healthcare, their patients. But organizations are themselves also enjoying access — to a great but underserved portion of the population.

Good health!
Chanin

Secretary Clinton underscores the need for skilled healthcare multilingual communication

If you follow the news you likely ran across the brouhaha that was generated after a recent visit U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As the story was reported, Secretary Clinton was said to have lost her cool when a French-speaking Congolese student reportedly asked her what Mr. Clinton thought on the topic of Chinese contracts to the DRC.

Video of the exchange coursed across the Internet, with Secretary Clinton indeed looking and sounding unexpectedly peeved at the question. Much debate followed about the appropriateness of her response, her ability to keep her composure, and a host of other issues.

As it turned out, the entire back and forth was actually an unfortunate misunderstanding — triggered by a bungled translation. Reviewing the audio, it was learned that the student had in fact asked what the president thought. The interpretor had mistakenly inserted “Bill Clinton” in place of “President Obama.”

Though a simple misstep, it was enough to set off a chain reaction that not only embarrassed the secretary and her team, but overwhelmed her ability to effectively deliver her intended message, which focused on the plight of women and children in the DRC.

Stories like this are really cautionary tales. They point up very starkly how critical experienced, skilled, competent multilingual communication is to effective communication. What would such a gaffe in your multilingual healthcare communication cost you, or your patients?

Good health!
Chanin

Technological innovation must benefit all patients

We’ve talked a bit about social media in Speaking Healthcare over the last few months, but the subject has only grown larger and more pervasive. Twitter, the microblogging tool, even made the cover of Time magazine in June.

The healthcare industry, like so many others, is trying to work out if these new communications vehicles are right for them. With the adoption of electronic medical records (EHRs), it seems likely that it may happen around them whether they plan for it or not.

Many predict that companies will develop that will use this information to help patients find others in similar medical situations. Healthcare providers could even choose to syndicate their content, making it available to a handful of healthcare-related sites that could then personalize the information to a patient’s exact needs. This could be done, for example, via customized, highly relevant newsletters, among other means.

It’s a turbulent time to be in healthcare, but it’s also very exciting. The combination of public attention, political will, and technological innovation promises to bring about major changes in how we communicate with patients and how they ultimately receive care. As always, as we seek to guide these changes, it’s up to us to ensure that all patients, including limited English proficient (LEP) speakers, are permitted to enjoy the benefits.

Good health!
Chanin
viaLanguage

http://adage.com/digitalnext/article?article_id=138254

Joint Commission seeking standards on culturally competent care

Anyone who works in healthcare knows that healthcare translation is not ancillary to care, but is, rather, a central and necessary feature of access for an increasingly sizable portion of the population. In a recent article in Hospitals & Health Networks, Laurie Larson explores how the Joint Commission is concentrating a greater focus on this issue to enhance language and cultural competence.

As part of this effort, the Joint Commission has undertaken a project, sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, to develop standards for culturally competent care, while promoting the culturally sensitive practices set forth by the National Quality Forum. According to Larson, the project has two principal goals:

• Advance patient-centered care, concentrating on respecting the needs of each   individual.
• Provide culturally competent care, including respecting race, language,    religion, and other cultural differences.

Once the standards are established, the commission will provide hospitals with an implementation guide. Hospital executives and boards will then be expected to help foster communication and provide the necessary resources for nurses and doctors to help the patient-centered care flourish.

It is a process that must start at the beginning, at registration, with the preferred language of the patient captured in their record. Hospital leaders might then spend time during rounds to observe and ask how effectively and systematically their system’s cultural competency efforts are working.

Good health!
Chanin

http://hhnmag.com/hhnmag_app/jsp/articledisplay.jsp?dcrpath=HHNMAG/Article/data/07JUL2009/0907HHN_FEA_patientcare&domain=HHNMAG

Technological innovation must benefit all patients

We’ve talked a bit about social media in Speaking Healthcare over the last few months, but the subject has only grown larger and more pervasive. Twitter, the microblogging tool, even made the cover of Time magazine in June.

The healthcare industry, like so many others, is trying to work out if these new communications vehicles are right for them. With the adoption of electronic medical records (EHRs), it seems likely that it may happen around them whether they plan for it or not.

Many predict that companies will develop that will use this information to help patients find others in similar medical situations. Healthcare providers could even choose to syndicate their content, making it available to a handful of healthcare-related sites that could then personalize the information to a patient’s exact needs. This could be done, for example, via customized, highly relevant newsletters, among other means.

It’s a turbulent time to be in healthcare, but it’s also very exciting. The combination of public attention, political will, and technological innovation promises to bring about major changes in how we communicate with patients and how they ultimately receive care. As always, as we seek to guide these changes, it’s up to us to ensure that all patients, including limited English proficient (LEP) speakers, are permitted to enjoy the benefits.

Good health!
Chanin

http://adage.com/digitalnext/article?article_id=138254

Have you incorporated SCHIP into your healthcare translation mix?

In February, amidst the fanfare generated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the administration got things rolling by extending healthcare coverage to about 4 million uninsured children. The intention is to bolster the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to the tune of $32.8 billion.

In an earlier post, we talked about the fact that because a great many of these children — about one-third — are expected to be Hispanic, and will be new to health insurance, healthcare translation must figure in the process.

Toward that end, viaLanguage is proud to be working with Geisinger Health Plan in Danville, Pennsylvania, one of the top commercial and Medicare health plans in the nation, according to the U.S.News & World Report/National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). We recently began providing healthcare translation for Geisinger, concentrating on their SCHIP line of insurance, which they will begin offering this fall.

As the new children join the SCHIP rolls, the time is right for incorporating their needs into your healthcare translation efforts. To learn how, just ask your language services provider.

Nancy Pautsch
viaLanguage

http://www.thehealthplan.com/news/2008/usnewsncqa08.cfm

To reach your Hispanic patients, try going online

I recently did a post on a great pair of companion social networking sites called TuDiabetes and EsTuDiabetes. One English, one Spanish, the two sites gives those with diabetes a place to learn about their condition, share, and connect with others. But the sites have something else to teach us.

As well as being a great example of how to use social media as a tool in healthcare, the sites demonstrate a reality that those in healthcare are only now beginning to fully understand: The Hispanic community is online.

Here are some facts:

• 52 percent of U.S. Hispanics, or about 23 million people, were online in 2008 (eMarketer).
• 27 percent of those users went online every day.
• 3.5 million new Hispanic users went online between June 2007 and June 2008, growth of 21 percent compared to just 6 percent general market growth.
• By 2012, more than 29 million Hispanics are expected to be online.

Not only are Hispanics the fastest growing segment of the online population, they are also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to visit social media sites like MySpace and Facebook.

There are a range of explanations for why this is true, but it’s how we respond to these trends that makes the difference. If your patients are online and using social media, perhaps there is an opportunity there to bring value. Ask your language services provider how.

Good health!
Chanin

Doctor-rating sites can serve more via translation and localization

There’s a good deal being written these days about the relative benefits and challenges of moving to electronic health records (EHRs). It’s an interesting subject both as a patient and as one who works with healthcare professionals. But the truth is EHRs are just one way in which technology is being used to try and help patients secure the best care possible.

In a recent post on the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, Anne Wilde Mathews spotlights a nonprofit called Consumers’ Checkbook, one of a handful of sites devoted to providing ratings of doctors. Another group is even working with the well-known restaurant-raters, Zagat, to develop their model.

Consumers’ Checkbook is currently only working in Memphis, Denver, and Kansas City, but has plans for other locations. But before it can hope to be a meaningful tool for all patients, it will, like so much else in healthcare, have to embrace the simple demographic fact that the population of limited English proficient (LEP) citizens is growing rapidly.

These days, any site or resource, no matter how welcome or well intentioned, that is developed without an eye toward meeting the needs of this expanding LEP audience can only hope to be a partial solution.

Good health!
Chanin
viaLanguage