Healthcare is one area where limited English proficient (LEP) individuals may face inequities in getting high-quality care due to language roadblocks. One federal agency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS), has made health equity the first pillar in their 2022 strategic plan. The plan has nine health equity goals and has charged their programs with integrating health equity into their core work.

While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid is a federal agency, they “call on private sector partners to engage with this health equity strategy to sustain long-term action.”

While it may be challenging to conceptualize health equity and put it into action, the CMS strategic plan lays out nine specific goals with examples of how they’re putting these goals into action. Language access is a core component of providing equitable health care and can be a part of these goals. In this blog, we’ll look at five of the nine CMS goals, how language access supports these health equity goals, and ways you can implement language services.

“Expand and Standardize the Collection and Use of Data”

All kinds of data exist to help companies better understand their demographics and patient KPIs that evaluate preferences, usage, satisfaction levels, health outcomes, etc. Data helps to understand where the needs are and where your organization currently is to then create a blueprint for action. Here are just some of the many available resources:

Your language service provider (LSP) is another invaluable resource. An LSP has a broad range of data based on service type, region, language, and more. For example, our AvantPortal powered by AvantData gives our clients smart linguistic usage insights such as:

  • Your spend by service type to know what is commonly used
  • How often different requesters are using language services
  • Which departments are requesting language services most frequently
  • The ebb and flow of project quantity by month, quarter or year
  • Which languages your organization is typically utilizing
  • And more

The dashboards help capture historical data so our clients can predict needs and provide additional information for decision-making. Reach out to your LSP to see how they can help provide you with data.

“Promote Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services”

Language access is more than having translated content to support services—it also means making the content culturally and linguistically appropriate. The aim is to improve the end customer experience by providing language access to programs, services, and information targeted to specific groups, not just generic information.

For example, suppose you’re trying to promote an educational piece about the danger of sun for skin cancer for the Latino community. In that case, you’d provide culturally relevant information such as statistics of skin cancer in Latinos—not Caucasians – as Latinos “do face rising melanoma rates, but still actually have a lower rate of developing melanomas than their white peers.”

This measure isn’t just for CMS—the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services created a set of 15 action steps called Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) for health and healthcare organizations to advance health equity and reduce health care disparities.

“Promote the Highest Quality Outcomes and Safest Care for All People”

Although it may be tempting to use internal employees for translations to save money, that quite likely won’t be the highest-quality option for many reasons. For example, many healthcare organizations who even have dedicated staff linguists run into inconsistencies such as terminology that can slow down the translation process and reduce the quality. This organization enlisted Avantpage to partner on employee assessments for quarterly evaluations, creating recommendations, and helping with the increase of output production.

“Does identity play a role in how we translate? The shortanswer is yes. As we go about the work of translation, we bring far more than the skills we’ve learned. We bring a lifetime of experiences along with attitudes that were formed in childhood and beyond. We come to our work with assumptions and biases embedded in the cultures of our families and communities beyond what we may realize. The way in which we render words in a target language is affected by our histories, perspectives, and biases, whether we’re aware of them or not.”

Words Matter, Identity Matters 

The Hidden Costs of Using Bilingual Employees for Translation

However, if you work with an LSP, you’ll gain access to their networks of highly qualified individuals, employees, and technologies, which will provide the best opportunities for high-quality translations. For example, if you require interpreter services, an LSP can use their resources to provide interpreters with a medical background, who have certifications, etc. As a result, an LEP patient in a hospital should communicate better, leading to a better healthcare outcome.

LSPs can also provide quick turnarounds that internal employees may not be able to do. For example, Notice of Action (NOA) or Notice of Appeal Resolution (NAR) letters require a quick turnaround. An LSP will have the resources to meet these needs.

“Promote Broader Access to Health-Related Social Needs”

Many communities have programs that offer connection through parks and recreation services, special events, daily services, etc. These types of programs provide community participation, equity, and social/networking opportunities, leading to more connection and fulfillment.

Translating program materials that bring awareness to events and promoting these materials makes these opportunities available for everyone. An LSP can provide not just translators, but also community reviewers—local individuals to help micro-localize your content by targeting highly specific groups of people. Reviewers create content that is sure to resonate with the end user.

“Close the Gaps in Health Care Access, Quality, and Outcomes”

Applying any CMS initiative to your organization should get you closer to closing the gaps in health care. To take it a step farther, one way to reach LEP communities is to do multilingual outreach with your language offerings. So instead of just translating your educational content and putting it on your website, you can give hard copies to local organizations for them to disperse, mail your hard copies to LEP communities or hire bilingual representatives to go out in the community.

These kinds of proactive actions will help your target audiences learn about who you are and what services you offer, and in turn, help to raise awareness and health literacy.

Conclusion

Much work is needed to advance health equity. We support our clients in advancing health equity by providing nuanced and linguistically appropriate translation and language services. We want to help all end customers improve their health literacy and experience by providing our clients with high-quality language services for health care programs, services, and information.

To learn more about how we can help you with your language service needs, contact us at [email protected] or (530) 750-2040.