Home » Patient Safety » Ease the Pain of Non-English-Speaking Patients With Better Language Support

Imagine this scenario: You’ve been in a car accident and sustained serious injuries. English is not your first language and you are struggling to communicate with emergency responders through the pain.

You’re transported to the hospital and the emergency department (ED) physician asks you where it hurts. You can only describe it in your native tongue and the doctor is at a loss to understand what’s wrong. You are admitted to the hospital and endure a battery of tests that might otherwise be unnecessary to arrive at a diagnosis.

Upon discharge, you receive care instructions that aren’t translated into your language and you struggle to comply with the care plan. This results in health complications that impact your safety and land you back into the hospital, incurring more avoidable costs. 


This scene plays out thousands of times per day for non-English-speaking patients seeking care in the U.S. healthcare system, impacting nearly 25 million people, or approximately 8.6% of the population, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

While there are laws in place to ensure that translation and interpreting services are available, an American Medical Association (AMA) study found that 43% of non-native speakers who were hospitalized had communicated without an interpreter present during admission and 40% had communicated without an interpreter present after admission.

Accessing language solutions

Dipak Patel


“I envision a world where linguistically challenged patients can access the right level of support for the situation at hand.”

Providing better language solutions for those with limited English proficiency is the obvious solution, however, the challenge is much more complex than simply providing translation and interpreting services during a health crisis. This assistance is needed across the patient’s healthcare journey to ensure they receive safe, cost-effective care on an ongoing basis, explained GLOBO CEO Dipak Patel, improving the provider and patient experience, and outcomes, while reducing unnecessary costs.

“We believe linguistically challenged patients need and deserve to have better language support at every touch point,” Patel said. “Depending on the criticality of the situation, they may need a live interpreter present onsite or via phone or telehealth. As technology progresses, we expect automated interpreting to become more prevalent, especially with the growing use of artificial intelligence.”

Ultimately, Patel also foresees the responsibility for linguistics support shifting from a service that clinicians deem necessary to one that the patient initiates. “We know that 70% to 80% of a patient’s health is determined by outside influences,” Patel explained. “These factors, called social determinants of health, can include what a patient eats, where they live, whether they have transportation, and more. In the future, we envision the patient deciding when and where they need some form of translation and interpreting, so they never have to be without it.”


Leveraging automation

How patients access these services and who ultimately pays is still up for debate, however, Patel expects more automation will reduce linguistics costs to increase access. “There are a lot of places where automation can fill the gaps, from scheduling appointments to ordering food. I envision a world where linguistically challenged patients can access the right level of support for the situation at hand.”

As the healthcare industry moves from a fee-for-service model to value-based care, Patel sees linguistics as essential to achieve population health. “You can’t get there if you aren’t able to speak with patients in their language of choice. This is something that should be on every healthcare administrator’s radar.”

To learn more, visit HelloGlobo.com

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