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'Lost In Translation:' Hospitals' Language Service Capacity Doesn't Always Match Need

By Kaiser Health News  
   August 09, 2016

Private not-for-profit hospitals were the facilities most likely to offer language services. Yet, in areas with the greatest need, about 36% did not have systems in place. In areas with low need, seven out of ten facilities had the capability.

This article first appeared August 8, 2016 on the Kaiser Health News website

By Carmen Heredia Rodriguez

Luis Ascanio, 61, works as a medical interpreter at La Clinica del Pueblo, a D.C.-based clinic geared toward providing health care to the surrounding Latino community.

Fluent in Spanish and French, he helps doctors talk with patients with limited English skills about health care issues that range from highly technical to deeply emotional. "You are sort of a bridge," he said. "And it is very important that you do not obscure the context of the conversation."

But according to an analysis published Monday in Health Affairs, more than a third of the nation's hospitals in 2013 did not offer patients similar language assistance. In areas with the greatest need, about 25 percent of facilities failed to provide such services.

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Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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