Posted by Amy Wilson-Stronks
It has been several years now since new and more specific accreditation standards were implemented by The Joint Commission to support the provision of interpreters, translated written materials, and other communication supports for people who have limited English proficiency (LEP) or are Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH). In that time, we have been keeping our eyes, ears, and fingers open for trends in language access. Recently, we learned of a voluntary resolution agreement between Mee Memorial Hospital in California and the Office for Civil Rights that resulted from three complaints “filed on behalf of three Mexican national origin individuals whose primary language is Triqui-Bajo. The complaints contend that MMH failed to provide the affected parties, who are limited English Proficient (LEP), with effective interpreter services and thereby discriminated against them on the basis of national origin, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Through the compliance resolution, Mee Memorial agrees to a number of provisions including establishing a Title VI Coordinator and Coordinating Office, providing a “sufficient number of dedicated staff,” and creating systems that ensure, “that the primary language of each LEP patient is clearly identified in the patient’s medical record” and assuring that language access resources are available and accessed in a timely fashion. The provisions continue, but what is of most valuable note is that these provisions mirror those of a comprehensive Language Access Plan. It is unlikely that Mee had a Language Access Plan in place. If they had, they would have purposefully planned resources and designed policies and procedures based on meaningful data explaining community and patient language needs. Unfortunately, most hospitals and healthcare organizations have a “policy driven approach” that leaves out thoughtful planning for needs, resources, and processes for monitoring for improvement.
If your organization needs assistance with Language Access Planning, please contact us. We would love to help you proactively improve healthcare for LEP patients served at your institution! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.