Innovation & Technology | Global Perspective

5 Elements Not to Leave Out of Your Language Access Plan

Outcome-based care is changing the healthcare industry. When healthcare systems take a patient-centric approach to care, they can improve patient outcomes and overall satisfaction while also increasing job satisfaction among providers. As providers focus on the patient experience, it’s essential to consider the barriers to health equity that affect limited-English proficient (LEP) patients. 

LEP individuals are defined as “individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English,” including those whose primary language is American Sign Language. Federal law mandates that facilities that receive federal assistance must provide “meaningful access” to the LEP population.

For LEP patients, miscommunication and unavailability of qualified medical interpreters have been linked to serious adverse events, contributing to disparities in patient safety between English-speaking and LEP patients. A well-designed Language Access Plan (LAP) can help health systems combat these disparities, enabling them to serve the LEP population better while improving provider experience and lowering overall costs. 

What is a Language Access Plan?

A Language Access Plan is a strategic resource that lays out how an organization provides services to limited-English patients. Language Access Plans are curated based on your facility’s needs; however, there are several elements that are critical for a successful plan.

Here are 5 elements that should be included in your organization’s Language Access Plan: 

  1. Policy Overview – Having a clearly defined purpose and policy for your Language Access Plan will provide transparency, visibility, and understanding across your organization. Additionally, establishing a core language access team will set your organization up for success by designating key stakeholders for your Language Access Program. These stakeholders can include an executive sponsor, language access coordinator, fiscal sponsor, or provider liaison. 
  2. Language Services Offered – Research your community and identify which languages and services are most needed for your organization’s LEP population. Be sure to take into account any extra support needed for services, such as telehealth appointments. It’s important to document and define which services you plan to offer and the scope of each service. 
  3. How to Request the Appropriate Service – Set up your staff for success by clearly communicating procedures for requesting a service. For example, define the difference between working with an interpreter via telephone interpreting or video remote interpreting. Providing this information can help eliminate extra steps and potential confusion, allowing providers and patients to move through an appointment with ease. 
  4. Staff Training – Document the language access training process within your plan, providing details on specific procedures and training requirements, such as how to prepare for patient discharge. We recommend conducting Language Access Plan training during new employee orientation, volunteer orientation, routine staff training sessions and annual competencies training. 
  5. Program Assessment – Language data provides critical insight into patient preferences, services spend, and more to help evaluate the quality and success of your program. Based on data provided by your language services provider, determine the metrics of success your organization will use to evaluate the effectiveness of your LAP on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. 

Now that you know what your Language Access Plan needs to be successful, it’s time to take action. 

Author Bio:

Michael Dombkoski is a Customer Success Manager at GLOBO Language Solutions. Starting his career at GLOBO in 2014, he has held various customer-centric roles, including account management, sales and marketing, and recruitment. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware where he studied Mass Communications and minored in Spanish and Journalism.