The Benefits of Multilingual Hotline in Healthcare

June 27, 2024

It’s easy for most healthcare institutions to assume that all their patients speak and understand English fully. Surprisingly, however, over 8% of the U.S. population are limited English proficiency (LEP) people. 

So, what happens when an LEP patient tries reaching out to your clinic regarding a health problem? Can your English-speaking providers fully understand what they’re trying to communicate? What if these patients feel apprehensive about their inability to communicate their condition clearly? What happens when critical patient information gets lost in translation? 

How does your answer to these questions change when your healthcare facility incorporates a multilingual hotline for LEP patients? Here, we discuss the many powerful benefits of a multilingual hotline and how it enhances the quality of your patient care. 

Enhanced Patient Experience + Improved Quality of Care

Let’s say you’re someone who speaks fluent French but has a very limited English proficiency. You reach out to a healthcare clinic regarding an illness but, unfortunately, none of the staff members speak your language there. Not only do you struggle to explain your condition, but you also face the risk of miscommunication, which could potentially lead to complications like medical errors. 

This is pretty much the essence of why healthcare businesses must have a multilingual hotline. Studies reveal that a large population of LEP patients “continue to suffer differentials in both health and access to quality health care,” and this pitfall extends to hotlines too. 

When your patients can easily chat with your providers in their native language, the result is enhanced patient experience and improved quality of care. Plus, speaking to someone who knows their language boosts trust and makes your patients feel more at ease. When everything is explained and registered clearly without zero language barriers, your patients get to communicate their symptoms or issues with ease and receive the information they need quickly and clearly.

Increased Accessibility 

Here’s something many healthcare businesses seem to miss: an LEP patient, who is already dealing with a health hiccup, may feel apprehensive to reach out because of anxiety over their inability to express their concern to a provider. Simply because few people relate to it doesn’t make the issue go away. In fact, this can cause “lost in translation” situations that may ultimately lead to poor results for at-risk patients. 

Another scenario: Picture getting recently discharged from a clinic. While you may have felt supported by an interpreter when you were physically present at a healthcare facility, the same doesn’t happen when the time comes for a follow-up. 

Now, when you get home, you notice a symptom that requires urgent medical advice. When you reach out to your provider, an English-speaking voice greets you. You try to explain your condition repeatedly without getting anywhere. A few failed attempts later, you simply hang up, becoming more vulnerable to potential complications. As a healthcare business, you don’t want similar situations to manifest with your patients and a multilingual hotline is the only tool that can bridge this language barrier. 

Maintaining Compliance 

In many states, it is mandatory for healthcare settings to have certain languages available for their patients. The Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act in California, for example, requires businesses to offer bilingual services to LEP residents. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also underscores the importance of language access services in the healthcare landscape. But the need for a multilingual hotline goes beyond meeting legal requirements – it actually has a direct impact on the quality of care you lend to your patients. 

Improving Cultural Competence 

When you have a multilingual hotline in place, you automatically enlarge the scope of cross-cultural communication in your facility. Why is this important? Cultural nuances play a bigger role in decision-making than you think. The multilingual staff communicating with your patients via your hotline can grasp a significantly stronger understanding of the way your non-English speaking patients perceive their illness and treatment options. Such an understanding of cultural backgrounds allows your healthcare business to offer highly personalized care. 

Retaining Staff Members 

Having bilingual staff members gives your healthcare facility another important edge – improved staff retention. Team members who speak multiple languages feel appreciated for bringing value to both your patients and your business. After all, these are the people who mitigate any risks of hospital readmission or medical errors that non-English patients are vulnerable to. When you appreciate these staff members, their morale naturally increases, and they feel more motivated to excel at their jobs.  

Faster and More Efficient Resolutions 

Things getting lost in translation can be a dangerous affair for healthcare organizations. Communication hiccups, in many cases, increase the risk of:

  • Hospital readmission 
  • Medical errors 
  • Longer hospital stays 

A lot of these pitfalls arise from ineffective handling of patient calls, complications post discharge, and improper follow-up care. Having a multilingual phone line not only allows your patients to clearly communicate how they’re feeling but also receive accurate instruction throughout their recovery phase. 

Improved Business Reputation 

The American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that more than 25 million Americans are limited English proficiency people. In other words, these 25 million Americans are directly impacted by the absence of a multilingual hotline. This includes facing risks such as medical errors, inability to book appointments, and difficulty following their doctors’ instructions. 

A simple step of incorporating a multilingual hotline resolves most of these pitfalls and disparities, leading to improved health outcomes and care quality. With word-of-mouth and social media being the most powerful marketing platforms, it doesn’t take very long for word to spread about your facility’s processes. If your clinic offers valuable experiences to LEP people, you attract a bigger pool of patients from diverse backgrounds, ultimately building a reputation for cultural competence, and inclusivity. 

A Final Word 

Language assistance is a vital element of quality patient care. When your healthcare facility incorporates a multilingual hotline, the result manifests in the form of increased accessibility, enhanced patient care, faster resolution, compliance maintenance, and a positive brand reputation.