Crossing The Language Chasm

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 10 14:30:44 UTC 2005

Health Affairs, Vol 24, Issue 2, 424-434
Copyright © 2005 by Project HOPE
DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.24.2.424
This Article

Crossing The Language Chasm

Cindy Brach, Irene Fraser and Kathy Paez

The quality of communication between patients and clinicians can have a major
impact on health outcomes, and limited English proficiency can interfere with
effective communication. More than ten million U.S. residents speak English
poorly or not at all, constituting a language chasm in the health care system.
This paper reviews the evidence on the link between linguistic competence and
health care quality and the impact of particular language-assistance
strategies. Drawing on the experiences of fourteen health plans that have been
at the forefront of linguistic competence efforts, we identify lessons for
plans, purchasers, policymakers, and researchers on ways to improve the
availability and quality of interpreter services.

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