In a recent study conducted by Health Affairs, nearly one-third of U.S. hospitals have failed to offer qualified interpreters to patients who speak limited English, even though recent federal laws have made it a requirement to do so.

This is a concerning statistic, as 24 million people in the United States have limited English proficiency according to the Alliance for Health Reform. It has been found that one in 10 adults in the United States struggles to communicate in English, by the U.S. Census data.

Due to these language barriers, many LEP patients face added challenges in receiving healthcare that can result in improper diagnosis, unnecessary healthcare expenses, or return trips to the doctor.

“When hospitals do not provide interpreters to LEP patients a lot can be lost in communication,” Yolanda Robles, President and Co-Founder of CulturaLink said. “When friends and family members of a patient are forced to play interpreter or translator they can often make mistakes communicating the complicated medical terminology involved in such a conversation.”

In addition, when a family member or friend is communicating on behalf of the patient, the patient might be hesitant in sharing personal information about their situation, healthcare needs or behavior. Giving personal information to a stranger can be easier rather than a close family member or friend who is being used as a translator.

While recent legislation, including Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, have made the provision of interpreters required the study shows that organizations are slow to adapt properly. Often times, family members, friends, or uncertified medical staff are forced into interpreting and translating for LEP patients.

Often, the resistance to implementing and following a language access plan can be the result of an inefficient relationship with a language service provider. An organization who does not tailor their language services to their specific community and unique needs will often find utilizing language services as more of a hassle than a help.

“All patients deserve to have consistent and reliable access to language services,” Robles said. “Not only do qualified interpreters and translators protect patients from medical errors, but they can also provide valuable assistance to healthcare facilities as well. It is essential that a healthcare organization not only provide these services to patients, but select a partner who truly develops a program to meet their unique needs..”

For more information about language services in hospitals and how your facility provides great care contact CulturaLink at