Give a person a fish, and that person will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and that person will eat throughout his lifetime.
— Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie (paraphrased)
Let’s Help Communities to Thrive
Multilingual communication is key to helping vulnerable populations thrive.
“Give a person a fish, and that person will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and that person will eat throughout his lifetime.” Chances are you’ve heard this saying before, or at least some version of it. As simple as it is, the message speaks volumes. It points to the unquestionable value of quality education which is intricately connected to effective communication. And when it comes to our most vulnerable communities, effective communication offers the very tools to thrive. When vulnerable populations feel healthier, stronger, happier, and more productive, the entire community benefits.
Multilingual Communication for Health Insurance
It goes without saying that, here in the United States, health insurance is an absolute necessity for our wellbeing and longevity. Health insurance helps individuals and families afford prescription medicines, hospital stays, and medical visits. Depending on the coverage or plan, health insurance might also cover regular dental visits and preventative care services. However, without language support, many LEP individuals and their families are left in the dark.
Data Source: Health Affairs
Now, consider how much stronger those communities would be — how much healthier they would be — if only the playing field were leveled. Imagine, if you will, a health insurance marketplace that fully embraced language solutions to bridge the communication gap. When LEP individuals have access to healthcare coverage in their preferred language, they are much better able to protect themselves and their loved ones. And when any percentage of the population strengthens their health and wellbeing, society as a whole strengthens right alongside. Bottom line — language and culture should never be barriers to health insurance coverage.
Multilingual Communication in Healthcare
Roughly 9 million LEP persons receive some form of government healthcare insurance (either Medicaid, Medicare, or both), and “nearly 15% of Medicare beneficiaries are considered deaf or hard of hearing.”2 In fact, Medicaid and Medicare represent the largest insurers in the United States and are governed by federal legislation requiring healthcare facilities to provide limited-English proficient (LEP) persons with “equitable access to care.”3 Under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in fact, any healthcare facility receiving federal funds must provide free language assistance services for their LEP patients. Below, are two government programs that work as the “carrot and stick” so to speak, encouraging healthcare facilities to up their game when it comes to investing in effective multilingual communication.
The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) tracks 30-day hospital readmissions for qualified Medicare patients. If hospitals receive a high Excess Readmission Ratio (ERR), they risk losing up to 3% of reimbursement on their Medicare patient admissions. Although not directly targeted at encouraging language support services, HRRP focuses on readmissions from Medicare patient recipients. And since a significant percentage of the LEP patient population relies on Medicare services, having access to language support will certainly reduce 30-day readmissions.
The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers Survey (HCAHPS, or H-Caps) is a patient satisfaction survey. Participating hospitals receive reimbursement should they achieve an H-Caps 5-star rating. The HCAHPS ratings are also publicly accessible, so a 5-star rating can work to strengthen their reputation. Since the vast majority of healthcare facilities within the United States depend on reimbursements through Medicaid and Medicare, it is within their best interest to adhere to these government mandates.
Despite these efforts, however, and despite a growing body of evidence proving that effective communication in healthcare improves patient outcomes, language barriers persist. In fact, a significant percentage of healthcare facilities within the United States still do not provide the appropriate (and legally mandated) language services to bridge this communication gap. Even in the hospitals with the highest demand for language services, nearly one-quarter of hospitals do not provide any language support services.
Data Source: Health Affairs
When patients receive quality communication in their preferred language, they are much more likely to attend regular checkups and take preventive measures to protect themselves from getting sick. By investing in language services for healthcare, our entire society benefits. After all, a healthy society is a productive society.
Multilingual Communication in Education
It is widely accepted that the more educated a society, the healthier and the more prosperous it will be. The more educated we are, the greater our employment opportunities, the stronger our sense of civic responsibility, and the harder we’ll work to achieve social equality. Educated societies tend to generate the necessary income and develop the appropriate skills that lead to longevity and healthy living. However, in the United States, we still struggle with our education system, especially when it comes to English Learners (ELs). In fact, according to the US Department of Education, the national EL graduation rate sits at 64.39% vs the 84.89% graduation rate of their non-EL counterparts.
Data Source: US Dept. of Education
Approximately 4.5 million English learners (ELs) are enrolled in public schools across the U.S. These children, like all children, are very impressionable. In fact, researchers, Walqui and van Lier state that EL “students[‘] perception of how the majority culture accepts or rejects the culture and language they bring to school are extremely important for their eventual success[.]”4 The answer is obvious. Providing EL students with effective language support will not only help bridge the communication gap but will lessen these graduation disparities.
In fact, the answer to linguistic and cultural disparities across the board lies in effective multilingual communication — after all, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Thankfully, Vocalink Global is answering the call.
Vocalink Global Excels in Multilingual Communication
For over 26 years, Vocalink Global has been bridging the communication gap for the entire LEP population. We remain laser focused on our mission to provide innovative language solutions that ensure our clients are heard and understood.
Our team of INSIDERS goes well beyond transactional connections with our clients. We work directly with you to build and maintain successful relationships, offering customized language solutions to meet your unique needs. From our advanced machine translation systems to our integrated interpreting solutions, Vocalink Global brings you the highest level of effective multilingual communication.
Connect with Vocalink Global today, and together, our rising tide will lift all boats. Welcome to the Vocalink Global family.
1 Chin, Kathy Ko. “Language Access Rights Under Threat: Health Affairs Blog.” Health Affairs, 9 Aug. 2019, www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190809.457959/full/
2 Understanding Communication and Language Needs of Medicare Beneficiaries. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – Office of Minority Health, Apr. 2017, www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/OMH/Downloads/Issue-Briefs-Understanding-Communication-and-Language-Needs-of-Medicare-Beneficiaries.pdf.
3 Proctor, Kimberly, et al. “The Limited English Proficient Population: Describing Medicare, Medicaid, and Dual Beneficiaries.” Health Equity, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 1 May 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6071899/.
4 Ferlazzo, Larry. “Response: Understanding the Benefits of a Student’s Home Language (Opinion).” Education Week, Education Week, 8 Dec. 2020, www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-response-understanding-the-benefits-of-a-students-home-language/2017/01.
In addition to:
quoteresearch, Author. “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.” Quote Investigator, 24 Apr. 2019, quoteinvestigator.com/2015/08/28/fish/. .
Proctor, Kimberly, et al. “The Limited English Proficient Population: Describing Medicare, Medicaid, and Dual Beneficiaries.” Health Equity, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 1 May 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6071899/.
Cristina Boccuti, “Aiming for Fewer Hospital U-Turns: The Medicare Hospital Readmission Reduction Program.” KFF, 16 Feb. 2018, www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/aiming-for-fewer-hospital-u-turns-the-medicare-hospital-readmission-reduction-program/.
Schiaffino, Melody K., et al. “Language Services In Hospitals Vary By Ownership And Location: Health Affairs Journal.” Health Affairs, 1 Aug. 2016, www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0955#EX1.
“Academic Performance and Outcomes for English Learners.” Home, www2.ed.gov/datastory/el-outcomes/index.html.
Ferlazzo, Larry. “Response: Understanding the Benefits of a Student’s Home Language (Opinion).” Education Week, Education Week, 8 Dec. 2020, www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-response-understanding-the-benefits-of-a-students-home-language/2017/01.