nurse, patient and language interpreter

Interpreter Impact on Limited-English-Proficiency Patient Care

Limited English Proficiency and Interpreter Care in the United States

“According to the 2000 Census, 47 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home. Half of these individuals report that they speak English less than ‘very well’.” (Shin and Bruno 2003). As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, there are a rising number of individuals who are considered to have limited English proficiency, or LEP. According to a study shared in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, this language barrier puts the health of many LEP individuals, and that of their communities, at risk by affecting their ability to access care and communicate with their providers.

The National Association of Community Health Centers shares that, eighty-five percent of CHCs report that LEP patient visits require more time. Forty-nine percent of community health centers (CHCs) report that a patient care visit is extended 5-15 minutes; thirty-one percent report requiring an extra 16-30 minutes, and five percent report more than 30 additional minutes per LEP patient visit. With nearly sixty percent relying on their bilingual staff, only twenty-nine percent of CHCs pay additional compensation to their bilingual staff for providing the interpretation service.

The Consequences of Communication Barriers

Communication barriers in healthcare can reduce the quality of care, and health disparities can persist unless the communication barriers are resolved. Several studies have found that patients who cannot speak English well receive less than optimal health care and are at greater risk of not receiving preventive and other services. Woloshin et al. found that Canadian women whose main spoken language is not English were less likely to receive mammograms, breast examinations, and Pap smears than are English-speaking Canadian women. Comparing primarily Spanish-speaking Mexican-American patients with other Latino patients, Hu and Covell found Spanish-speakers were less likely to have a regular source of primary care or to receive timely eye, dental, and physical examinations.

Resolving the Communication Barrier

In the “Impact of Interpreter Services on Delivery of Health Care to Limited-English-proficient Patients.”, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, they found that a program of professional interpreter services can increase delivery of health care to limited–English-speaking patients in a large staff model HMO. Patients who used the new interpreter services had a significantly greater increase in office visits, prescription writing, prescription filling.

AMN Healthcare Language Services Eases the Communication Barrier

Communication ease enhances physician-patient trust, patient satisfaction, and, ultimately, patient health. AMN Healthcare Language Services provides the opportunity to strengthen the connection between technology and human interaction. AMN Healthcare Language Services is committed to improving lives through better communication, and our success is fueled by our industry-leading language services technology and interpreters. Hear from our team members about the gratitude they experience in their role of providing language services to patients in the video below.

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Jacobs, E A et al. “Impact of interpreter services on delivery of health care to limited-English-proficient patients.” Journal of general internal medicine vol. 16,7 (2001): 468-74. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2001.016007468.x

Karliner, Leah S et al. “Do professional interpreters improve clinical care for patients with limited English proficiency? A systematic review of the literature.” Health services research vol. 42,2 (2007): 727-54. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00629.x

National Association of Community Health Centers. “Serving Patients with Limited English Proficiency: Results of a Community Health Center Survey.” (2008).

Shin HB, Bruno R. Language Use and English Speaking Ability: 2000. 2003. [cited 2006 July 28]. Available at

Woloshin S, Schwartz L, Katz S, Welch H. Is language a barrier to the use of preventive services? J Gen Intern Med. 1997;12:472–7.