Colorado: Commission recommends language strategies

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat May 5 13:36:33 UTC 2007

Commission recommends language strategies

A Joint Commission report recommends targeted strategies to address
language and cultural issues that hinder hospitals from delivering
effective care. The recommendations are the result of a study about how 60
hospitals provide health care to culturally and linguistically diverse
patient populations. The project examined the challenges of providing care
and services to groups that might not speak the same language or share the
same customs.  It also looked at how hospitals are addressing the

The study shows inconsistent practices both in the aggregate and in
individual hospitals. The recommendations include:

Leadership. Hospitals serving linguistically and culturally diverse
patient populations should consider establishing a centralized program to
coordinate services relating to language and culture as a part of a
commitment to quality. Other recommendations for hospital leadership
include a commitment to culturally and linguistically appropriate care and
fostering discussions about the issues.

Quality improvement and data use. Hospitals should implement a uniform
framework for systematic collection of data about race, ethnicity and
language, and should stratify by language, race, and ethnicity, service
and technical quality measures.

Work force. Hospitals should work to find ways to meet the needs of
diverse populations and should provide training to staff about how and
when to access language services. Accrediting bodies should require
continuing education and training that supports the provision of
culturally and linguistically appropriate care

Patient safety and provision of care. Hospitals should formalize their
processes for translating patient education materials, such as patient
rights and informed consent documents, into languages other than English
and should use health care interpreters and cultural brokers to facilitate
communication and education.

Language services. Hospitals should establish written policies regarding
language services, including prohibiting the use of family members and
children as interpreters except in emergencies.

Community engagement. Hospitals should work with community members from
diverse cultures and language groups through formal boards and in hospital
planning processes, as well as consider partnerships with ethnic media to
promote better understanding about available hospital services and
appropriate routes for accessing care.

Copies of the report are available at

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business


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