Language Access and Compliance in Healthcare and Medicine

A large collection of laws, regulations and requirements mandate language access for Deaf and limited English proficient (LEP) patients, and their families. This page surveys the most prominent compliance rules.

InDemand Interpreting provides Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) to healthcare organizations. With VRI, physicians, nurses and clinicians can engage in effective medical conversations with Deaf and LEP patients. VRI is the best interpreting solution for reliable communication, staff and patient satisfaction, and cost control. It works in virtually every setting across the continuum of care.

Federal law and all 50 states require effective language access for Deaf and limited English proficient patients.

Understanding America’s Deaf & LEP Population

The United States is a nation of more than 300 indigenous and immigrant languages. According to the 2013 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 25 million U.S. residents speak English less than very well. This is generally recognized as America’s LEP community.

The National Association of the Deaf counts 28 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans and residents. They are a legally protected community. Healthcare organizations must provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting, when requested, for medical conversations.

Language Access As a Compliance Issue

Federal law and all 50 states require effective language access for Deaf and limited English proficient patients. It is necessary. Hospitals and clinics are required to prepare comprehensive language access plans, offer language interpreting and record language preference in medical records.

Civil Rights Act

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its corresponding regulations prohibit national origin discrimination. To support this, Executive Order 13166 and the Department of Health and Human Services safeguard meaningful access to federally funded programs and activities for LEP patients by requiring effective language access in the form of interpreting and translation. All U.S. states and territories have their own laws requiring language access.

American Disabilities Act

The American Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is specific. No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the “office of a health care professional.” Physicians and hospitals must provide interpreters for Deaf and hard of hearing patients, and their family members, for all conversations that are too complex for easily passing notes.

The ADA requires reasonable accommodation. Ten years ago a CRS Report for Congress observed, “Recently video-conferencing technology, combined with high-speed Internet connections, has been used to provide around the clock interpreting services for businesses.” The report cites a separate Senate report that notes, “Technological advances can be expected to further enhance options for making meaningful and effective opportunities available to individuals with disabilities. Video Remote provides a meaningful solution.”

The Joint Commission

In 2012 The Joint Commission began requiring that healthcare organizations provide patient centered communications for all patients and their families, regardless of language. Hospitals that fail to comply risk jeopardizing their accreditation.

Among the list of 54 recommendations listed in The Joint Commission publication Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care – A Roadmap for Hospitals, hospitals should:

  • Identify the communications needs of all patients and families
  • Collect language data into the medical record
  • Address patient communication needs during treatment

InDemand Interpreting assists healthcare organizations, of all sizes, comply with these and other language service obligations. We provide high-quality Video Remote Interpreting that delivers instant video conferencing with medically qualified language and ASL interpreters. VRI is a modern, proven technology. It offers fast connections, can go where clinicians go, and is appropriate in most medical settings.

We can offer additional assistance including on-site interpreters, on-site VRI call centers, and language services department management or outsourcing.

To receive a free language access review, help developing and writing your effective language access plan and information about InDemand’s Video Remote Interpreting, contact us today.