Tag Archive for patient communication

A Month that Calls for Celebration

It would be an understatement to say that most of you are a just a little preoccupied with the pending Health Insurance Exchanges that will be here in mere days. With open enrollment and the ACA weighing heavily on everyone’s minds, I thought I’d change gears and write about something uplifting that everyone can celebrate, which is National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Starting in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson, National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, and celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of those with origins from Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

In a richly diverse nation full of the world’s many wonderful cultures and backgrounds, people of Hispanic origin still comprise the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. Those of you that handle language access for your healthcare organization may find it no surprise that Spanish is also the second most common language in the country, and is spoken by over 30% of the population.

From the NFL to the nation’s capital, and many communities and events in between, it’s easy to find a way to join in a celebración of this historical month.

For tips on how to make the most of your marketing efforts to your Hispanic audiences check out these resources from VIA:


Would You Like to Win a Grant for Free Healthcare Translation?

We at VIA are excited to announce that our 2013 Translation Grant Program is officially open!

In case you didn’t know, our annual translation grant program awards a total of $3,000 of in-kind translation to two healthcare organizations and/or programs that support language access.

Just like our healthcare partners and customers, the VIA team is passionate about improving healthcare access for underserved, limited English proficiency (LEP) communities. We also feel strongly about giving back, so that’s why we have maintained our tradition of awarding translation grants to healthcare organizations that are actively working to decrease disparities and improve communication efforts with their LEP populations.

If this sounds like your organization, we welcome you to apply. The deadline for applications is September 28, 2013 and recipients will be selected by October 18, 2013. Click here to learn more and get the application.

Best of luck!

Why Centralize Your Healthcare Translation Approach?

When it comes to translations, maintaining consistency and efficiency can be tricky, especially when organizations are managing multiple languages and multiple translation vendors. How can healthcare organizations ensure their brand is consistently translated from one language service provider to the next? And how can version control be maintained when there are numerous versions of documents living in multiple places at once?

The key to avoiding these issues is establishing a centralized translation process. While this may not be the solution for every organization, it may be the right step for larger organizations that are challenged with some of the following:

  • Supporting large volumes in one or more languages
  • Various types of healthcare content
  • Standardized healthcare preferences and terms
  • Private health information content
  • Meeting compliance regulations
  • Desire to improve quality management, reduce costs and minimize mistakes

If any of the above applies to your organization, it may be time to consider the idea of centralization. Centralizing enables fast, predictable turnaround of multilingual projects and delivers cost savings through the use of linguistic assets such as translation memories and technology tools. Centralization also saves time by allowing for a single record of all active and live documents that have been translated. It takes a bit of effort to get there, but it’s definitely worth your while. To read more about centralizing, and how it worked for a large California health System, click here.


ACA Opens the Door to Newly Eligible Populations

It seems like it was just yesterday when we were in the midst of a national election and speculating if the Affordable Care Act was going to move forward as planned.   Fast forward just three months to February and the Final Rule for Essential Health Benefits was issued.  Expanded access through Medicaid expansion and Insurer Markets is a reality and open enrollment is approaching fast.

This expanded access will reach populations that haven’t previously had coverage, and the learning curve will be huge.   I’ve lived in the healthcare system my entire career and I still find the flow charts explaining access to be a bit of a spaghetti diagram.  And that’s just the start—once people determine their eligibility, they will need to make decisions about health plans, navigate enrollment forms, select providers, etc.   This is an excellent opportunity not only to provide care, but also to provide education to new members on wellness, prevention and disease management.  As the immigrant population will comprise a significant percentage of the newly eligible, providing these materials to consumers with limited English proficiency will be critical to improving the experience, outcomes and ultimately population health.

Health literacy is a big concern in our healthcare system affecting both escalating costs and outcomes.  It is particularly prevalent among the elderly, and members of minority or ethnic groups who already face language and cultural barriers.  A few things to keep in mind when creating and translating materials are:  target 6th-8th grade literacy levels, write clearly in active voice, use short sentences, use clear headings, incorporate cultural nuances for LEP populations, and use graphics to help explain concepts. We also find that Q&A formats work well.

I firmly believe it’s up to all of us to simplify the increasing complexity of the health care system!


Want to learn more about health literacy and how to prepare your health plan for the changing healthcare marketplace? Download and watch our recent webinar, 2012 Health Plan Preparedness.


Tips for Creating Readable Health Materials in any Language

To help increase readability, consider these 4 tips when creating healthcare materials in other languages.

1. Health materials should focus on key messages and what patients need to know. Best practices include:
• Write clearly and in an active voice.
• Use familiar vocabulary and simple terminology.
• Use short sentences.
• Use graphics, videos or pictures that “show” rather than “tell.”
• Keep materials at a fourth- to sixth-grade level.

2. Employ readability tools to analyze and ensure the proper literacy levels.
• Word processing applications such as Microsoft Word can automatically determine the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and readability ranking.
• Because readability formulas used in English can’t be applied to foreign language documents, professional translators should utilize various other language-specific assessment tests.
• For Spanish, consider the Huerta Readability formula (HRE), an assessment similar to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test designed for analyzing texts in Spanish.

3. Health materials should be culturally relevant.
• Use images and examples that reflect the target audience. Pictures should display people of their own demographic rather than a generic stock photo of an “ethnic” person or family.
• If menu/food recommendations are included, they should reflect items that are relevant to that audience’s daily diet.
• Do not use slang or cultural references that may be unfamiliar to an immigrant or LEP population.
• Initiate a community review to test materials for comprehension and effectiveness.

4. Use professional linguists.
Materials should be translated by professional linguists and reviewed for grammatical inconsistencies and readability, important details that are beyond the capabilities of machine or computer-based translations.



Speaking Healthcare Blog is Back!

What better month to re-launch our blog than “health literacy” month?  Health Literacy Month is a time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information. Since its inception in 1999, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of awareness-raising events taking place worldwide. Our hats off to Helen Osborne who founded this great effort!

At VIA, our mission is to improve healthcare access for under-served  Limited English Speaking (LEP) communities. Health literacy affects us all. In fact, research indicates that today’s health information is presented in ways that are simply unusable by most adults. In today’s rapidly changing environment, it so important to provide health information that effectively contributes to access, informed decisions, and improved outcomes. We can build our own health literacy skills and help others – community members, health professionals, and anyone else who communicates about health  – and build their skills, too.

We also like to recognize, celebrate and support organizations that are making a difference in the delivery of healthcare to those communities with Limited English Proficiency. That commitment was the genesis of our Healthcare Translation Grant Program, and remains its mission today. With that focus in mind, we were pleased to announce our 2012 grant recipients this week – Providence Hospital in the District of Columbia and Washington Regional Medical Foundation.  We are proud to assist these special non-profit organizations that are committed to improving the health of their communities.

Until next time,


Health reform must include language and culture awareness to succeed

Among its many goals, health reform in the U.S. is seeking to ensure that Hispanics, a historically underserved population, have greater access to health insurance. But as is so often the case when dealing with non-English-speaking communities, failure to address mitigating cultural considerations can undermine the prospect of otherwise well-meaning efforts.

For today’s reform to truly benefit those it intends to serve among the Hispanic population, steps must be taken to ensure that such offerings are clearly understood. Such programs can be a challenge for English-speaking audiences familiar with insurance and how it works. The same is likely to be doubly true of Hispanics, especially those more recently arrived in the country.

Questions as fundamental as what the program offers, who is eligible, and how to enroll must be filtered through a keen understanding of Spanish and the broader Hispanic culture. Even the tagline of the program can be a stumbling block, as Regence discovered. When the line “Together we can take charge” failed to resonate,” further exploration among Hispanics led to the modification “Juntos podemos” or “Together we can.” This line proved to be more culturally meaningful.

There are other issues to bear in mind as health reform proceeds. The most challenging may be fear. Concerned about possible impact on immigration status, Hispanics are often reluctant to participate in government-sponsored programs. A sensitivity to this obstacle must be included in the development of messaging and materials.

Much work has gone into developing a healthcare system that addresses those who have heretofore been excluded or at the very least overlooked. Now that we are attempting to resolve these stubborn issues it would be tragic, both for the work already done and for those who stand to benefit, if we failed to address the necessary language and culture issues as well.

Till next time,

Can online communities help drive completion of intervention programs?

People increasingly understand that they must take an active role in their own health and wellness. The industry, meanwhile, knows that prevention is possibly the greatest means for controlling costs. Intervention programs are one tool being looked at to help achieve both aims.

The challenge is that, while effective, in-person programs in which providers are tasked with helping people lose weight or quit smoking can be expensive and inconvenient. They are also limited to the number of people the provider can actually support, not a scalable scenario. Online programs could be a solution.

So far, trials for such web-based alternatives have been promising, but hampered by low completion rates. One recent study found that about 25 percent of participants in a managed trial abandoned, while more than 65 percent quit the free, open-access online program.

The answer, some suggest, may be in online communities. Such environments permit users to communicate with each other, helping sustain inspiration and motivation, while offering them additional forms of content designed to promote program completion.

In another study, this one at the University of Michigan, they tested that premise with a two-tiered online walking program. One group had access to online community content and support. Nearly 80 percent of this group finished. The second group had no access, with nearly 20 percent fewer completing the program.

Questions remain, including how to pay for developing and managing such communities. Ensuring these communities address and support the many languages that make up today’s patient population is another.

Till next time,

Could social media deliver an innovation in how we conduct clinical trials?

Some months ago, the Speaking Healthcare blog explored the increasing popularity of emerging social media as a tool for enabling patients to take a more involved and active role in their own healthcare. PatientsLikeMe.com, which was highlighted in that post, is continuing to blaze that trail.

The site, a healthcare data-sharing platform, recently conducted an online trial in which they sought to assess the clinical benefit of an unapproved therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The study analyzed the relevant discussions on the site and included some 600 participating patients.

The results, recently published on Nature Biotechnology, drew on millions of data points and concluded that there was “no effect of lithium on disease progression.” This confirmed the results earlier found through traditional clinical trials.

The question being asked now is whether such online trials and studies driven by patient social networks can or will be a reliable option going forward. There are obvious upsides to using online communities in clinical research, including speed, access to rare patient populations, and availability of control participants. Clinicians or and even patients could one day run trials. (Read more in a recent Wall Street Journal blog post.)

Social media is transforming how we communicate and stay connected, be it among friends or participants in the “Arab Spring” protests. There is no reason to believe that such technological inroads won’t also impact how we think about healthcare.

Till next time,

Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative putting grant to work to benefit LEP communities

The ability for healthcare organizations to reach healthcare goals has perhaps never been more complex or more challenging. But the reality is that the need to meet those goals has likely never been more critical, especially among limited English proficiency (LEP) communities.

The viaLanguage Healthcare Translation Grant Program is one way we hope to help. The grant reflects our desire to spotlight and support those innovative healthcare organizations that are finding a way to improve access for today’s underserved, ethnic audiences.

Our 2010 grant recipient, the Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative in California, is a prime example. After conducting a baseline assessment of the uninsured in Alameda County in 2009, they concluded that the biggest finding was how challenging it was to gather information, especially amongst the smaller limited-scope providers.

Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative collaborated with a range of partners to develop a website that provides a comprehensive list of clinics, including both free and community clinics, an explanation of the different types of services they offer, and the processes patients must go through to get an appointment with a doctor.

Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative applied its $5,000 of in-kind translation services to the translation of the website into Spanish and Chinese, proving along the way that today’s most pressing healthcare challenges can be overcome. We applaud and congratulate them. Click here to read the entire case study about this project.