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Panelists of Bridging the Language Gap: Overcoming Language Barriers in Health Care and GHDonline staff

This panel discussion explores the impact of language barriers on access to health services, quality of care, and patient outcomes, and the role health systems can play to ensure safe and equitable care for patients who do not speak the local language. The discussion will be global in scope and bring in examples and evidence from settings around the world.

Research shows that poor patient-provider communication is the most frequent cause of serious adverse events and contributes to disparities in care. In the U.S., according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients are more likely to report poor health, decline needed care, leave the hospital against medical advice, miss follow-up appointments, and experience drug complications. Furthermore, language barriers lead to inefficient care when providers are not able to understand their patients’ symptoms, resulting in unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures, as well as higher rates of misdiagnosis and hospital readmission. Providing culturally and linguistically appropriate health services is essential to delivering equitable care to the growing LEP population.

Several solutions have been examined, but more work is needed to understand how to effectively close the language divide at the point of care. For example, in Switzerland, a study among asylum seekers showed that interpreter services led to more targeted health care, concentrating higher health care utilization into a smaller number of visits. Although the initial costs are higher, the results of this study indicate that the use of interpreter services is more cost-effective in the long-term.

Please join us as experts in cultural and language services engage the Population Health Community in a thoughtful discussion about how to support patients who do not communicate well in a country’s dominant language and providers who are unsure how to close the divide. We will discuss current best practices and explore emerging solutions and technologies that will improve clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction, while reducing costs of care.