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Sharing Best Practices for Effective Multilingual Communication in Healthcare

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5 Ideas for Small Medical Practices to Expand During Covid-19: Tapping into a New Demographic

By María Apgar | December 12 , 2020 | 5 Min read

Everybody is suffering the economic effects of the pandemic. Like the virus itself, the financial squeeze doesn’t discriminate. Large healthcare organizations and small practices are affected alike. Back in March, it started to become evident that medical practices needed to make a financial contingency plan due to fewer visits and canceled elective procedures. The Care Act provided some financial relief, and mitigated some of the financial challenges small medical practices were experiencing, but now the federal assistance money is long gone, and no new help is in sight. Many providers have adapted since then, consolidating administrative resources, managing workflows and using telehealth platforms. The flow of patients has increased in the last two months, but independent healthcare providers are still struggling, riding on loans and skipping their own paychecks to keep their practices afloat. Tapping into demographics that they normally don’t serve can bring new patients to small practices and provide a new string of revenue. Here we give you some ideas on how to reach out to non-English speaking communities and bridge the language barrier.

1. Check the Census Reporter to Understand the Demographics of Your Area

The Census Reporter includes the category “persons with language other than English spoken at home.” In the case of Tampa Bay, not surprisingly, Spanish is the second most spoken language at home. However, it is difficult to find a medical practice where Hispanic people feel comfortable in this area. They tend to visit the few practitioners that speak Spanish themselves and their options are very limited, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is that you don’t need to speak Spanish or any other language to provide a good standard of care and have positive interactions with non-English speaking patients. You just need a good medical translation service.

Medical translation services can help you create documents which you can provide to non-English speakers upon arrival. This can help to put them at ease right away, even if a speaker of their language is not readily available. Having well written healthcare translations of your materials can also help reach a broader audience since it’s unlikely you will be able to hire staff who speak the language of every community you serve. Language service companies that provide medical translation not only specialize in the accuracy of medical terminology in multiple languages, they tailor their healthcare translations to be culturally sensitive as well.

2. Use Social Media to Reach Out and Create Awareness

First, find out what the preferred platform is for your demographic. Facebook and other platforms allow for selecting the language of your target audience. Make sure the announcements describe your experience and show you are knowledgeable, approachable and have a friendly staff. Ads should use simple, compelling language written with impeccable grammar in the viewer’s language. This signals respect for the community. The medical translation service with which you work should have a thorough knowledge of all these topics.

3. Understand Cultural Beliefs Related to Health of Your Target Demographic

How people perceive health, healing, illness, and wellness affect not only how they feel about their health problems, but also when and from whom they seek healthcare attention and how they respond and adhere to treatments. Disregarding cultural differences is in a sense ignoring the context that helps people understand their health status and comprehend options for diagnosis and treatment. Check here for some cultural considerations for Hispanic patients.

4. Translate Medical Questionnaires and Forms

Start the medical encounter on the right foot. Avoid miscommunications that can make it difficult to diagnose and provide the appropriate treatment plan for your patients. Questionnaires can be designed to avoid open questions. Well-crafted multiple choice questions are straightforward and can give you the necessary information. A good medical translation service can guide you through this process.

5. Get Language Support from a Virtual Interpreter

Remember that medical translation refers to written documents, whereas medical interpretation is spoken aloud, in the moment. Many telehealth platforms, like Blue Stream, are already HIPAA compliant and allow for a three-way call. You can easily add a certified healthcare interpreter to your call. There is no need to use expensive video remote interpreting services that are more suitable for large healthcare facilities.


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