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How Language Barriers Limit Access to Healthcare

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It’s essential for patients to feel understood by their healthcare providers and to understand their care. But that can be a significant challenge when a patient has limited-English proficiency (LEP).

Dipak Patel

President, GLOBO

According to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 8.6% of Americans — 25 million people — have LEP. They say that number will likely grow and that not addressing these language barriers can both be dangerous for patient health and lead to increased costs. Offering language services can help patients get the services they need in their native language.

Enter GLOBO, a language support platform offering around-the-clock interpretation services with live linguists in over 350 languages. Its goal is to help close the language barrier gap.

“We are able to provide support to help throughout the entire patient journey,” said Dipak Patel, president of GLOBO. “It’s not just providing interpretation services when the patient is interacting with a physician, it’s being able to translate discharge instructions, translate the bill, help localize marketing efforts, etc.”


GLOBO offers telephone interpreters, video remote interpreters, on-site interpreters, on-demand text translation, translation, and cultural integration services.

How it works

Typically, healthcare providers pay for interpretation services for their patients. But often they’re frustrated with wait times when trying to be connected to an interpreter.

For many languages, such as Pashto, there’s a longer-than-desired wait time. Patel has heard about doctors who connect for an interpreter, and leave the room to see other patients, and then come back 5 minutes later, hoping the interpreter is now available.

But GLOBO is different. Clinicians who partner with GLOBO can download the app on iOS or Android. Spanish interpreters are available in about 8 seconds and non-Spanish interpreters in 22 seconds. GLOBO works with 7,000 linguists across the world; interpreters must pass written and verbal tests to work with the company; and privacy is a priority. Plus, the company can integrate into whatever workflow clinicians use.

Preventive care

Language is a social determinant of health­ and patients with LEP often struggle when scheduling appointments. They often don’t understand the scheduling process or why it’s important to come for an appointment. That often results in patient no-shows.

“If you’re not able to communicate the importance of the screening, they’re less likely to go ahead and try and get the screening,” said Patel, noting that Asian and Hispanic women have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels of receiving mammograms.

Language could be a major reason for that mammography drop off. A study shows women in the United States who only speak Spanish are 27% less likely to have a mammogram. While rates of breast cancer are significantly lower in Hispanic individuals, it’s the primary reason for cancer-related deaths in U.S. Hispanic females.


Research and innovation

Interpretation services can help research and innovation, including clinical trials. A research paper found that low English fluency may be a barrier to minority participation in cancer clinical trials.

Better outcomes

When patients receive the interpretation services they need, research shows patient satisfaction and health outcomes improve. But patients with LEP who don’t receive interpretation services often have longer hospital stays (about 1.5 days longer), and higher readmission rates.

“They’re not able to understand what the clinician is saying during that visit. They’re not able to understand whatever is being written down,” Patel said.

Learn more about how GLOBO can help reduce language barriers in your community http://www.helloglobo.com.

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