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What's Your Multilingual Online Strategy?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 21, 2012

Most hospitals are well equipped to serve non-English speaking patients, from employing certified translators to stocking multilingual health flyers in information racks. But few are just as able to communicate with those same patients online.

It's time to say basta, assez, and enough.

This cyber language barrier must be torn down in order to ensure all patients receive the most relevant and accurate healthcare information.

New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is tackling this issue by embedding a translator tool on its website. The tool was developed by the New York City Technology Department for all of the city's agencies. It uses the free Google Translate utility to provide an accurate translation of the site into 34 different languages.

"Since high quality healthcare depends on accurate communication with our patients, effective communication is an important component of HHC's commitment to patient safety," says Ana Marengo, HHC's senior vice president of corporate communications and marketing.  "The ability to translate the information on our website allows us to offer important information to patients who might otherwise not be able to get it."

Nearly 2,500 people used the translate tool on HHC's website in 2011, a 16% increase over the previous year. This illustrates how important it is to reach out to multilingual and multicultural groups online as communities continue to become more diverse.

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