Study Says Speaking the Same Language Improves Health Care


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Study Says Speaking the Same Language Improves Health Care

Based on data from the Pew Hispanic Center/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Latino Health Survey, a Wayne State University study found that the quality of health care is improved when providers and patients speak the same language. "So often we see that health care providers and researchers blame patients not fluent in English for not adhering to medical prescriptions and treatments when the problem may be that patients simply don't understand the clinician," says WSU Institute of Gerontology and School of Medicine Professor Hector M. González. "Today, there are over 60 million Americans who speak languages other than English and that will rapidly grow in coming years. That's a big market that savvy health care providers should not ignore." González, who led the WSU study, says that understanding the relationship between language and health care quality has important public health implications. With the expected increase in the U.S. Latino population in the coming decades, it is critical, he says, for practitioners and medical schools to plan for how to best serve these patients in the future. Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, says that while the quality of health care is slowly improving for the nation as a whole, it is getting worse for Hispanics in many cases. The Agency emphasizes the value of eliminating language barriers to reduce disparities in health care. González notes, "We have the most sophisticated health care system in the world; however, it does little good if patients and providers fail to communicate. There may be low-tech, perhaps even low-cost ways to improve health care quality that should not be overlooked as health care is transformed to meet the coming health care needs of the nation." The study, which was financed by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Network for Multicultural Research on Health and Healthcare, was published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

From "Speaking the Same Language Means Better Health Care Quality, Wayne State University Study Finds"
Wayne State University (MI) (01/20/11) O'Connor, Julie

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - January 2011


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