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The Importance of Linguistic Diversity in Serving Diverse Patient Populations

The Importance of Linguistic Diversity in Serving Diverse Patient Populations

Part two of a blog series on emerging Community Health Centers telehealth utilization trends and resulting implications for vulnerable patient populations

In our last blog post we discussed the growing importance of telehealth technology during COVID-19 for bridging the care gap between Community Health Centers and the vulnerable patient populations they serve. Whether pre or post-pandemic, Community Health Centers provide primary medical care for high percentages of racial and ethnic minority groups and patient populations with significant linguistic diversity.

When it comes to a topic as personal as your healthcare, being able to communicate in your native-language is essential for maintaining patient engagement. Patient engagement is a critical component of the patient experience as a whole since we know that high patient engagement rates have a plethora of benefits including increased quality of care, better clinical outcomes, and reduced healthcare costs. According to 2019 peer-reviewed research published by the BMC Medical Education journal: 

“Language concordance has been shown to improve care and serves as a window to broader social determinants of health that disproportionately yield worse health outcomes among patients with limited English proficiency… Communicating health-related information in the appropriate language and literacy level is critical to ensure understanding of and ability to complete treatment plans, and thereby optimize health outcomes”

Communicating health-related information in the appropriate language and literacy level is critical to the completion of treatment plans.

Access to healthcare in patient preferred languages will continue to be a paramount determinant in healthcare quality in the coming years. In fact, linguistic diversity in the United States is projected to increase with the results from this years census: the percentage of the population ages 5 and older speaking a language other than English at home is estimated to reach 20%. Second to Spanish, Chinese is the most common non-English language spoken at home, followed by French, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Luma Health works with Community Health Centers across the country to ensure that the 29 million patients they serve can rely on communication in their preferred languages in order to access the care they need. For Community Health Centers using Luma Health to integrate with eClinicalworks, the distribution of language preferences mirrors national-level linguistic diversity.

Preferred Languages of Community Health Center Patient Populations
Community Health Center patient population represents nearly 50% of the 1.9 million patients served by Community Health Centers using Luma Health

Consistent with national projections, roughly 20% of the patient population analyzed indicated preference for non-English communication. By far the most commonly noted non-English language preference was Spanish, but patients also noted Arabic, Chinese, Punjabi, and Vietnamese as well as some 40 other languages.

Across the patient population as a whole, Luma Health offers comprehensive SMS-based language options. Among the most popular languages supported by Luma Health are Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. Other SMS-based languages include: Armenian, Danish, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Bengali, Marathi, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Ultimately, maintaining communication pathways for patients of diverse backgrounds allows providers to optimize health outcomes and advance health equity across all patient populations. 

REVENUE RECOVERY WHITEPAPER

Patient volume and revenue are down as a result of COVID-19. See how engaging patients with targeted communications can help.

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