Study Finds Convenient Access to Professional Interpreters Decreases Readmission Rates and Estimated Hospital Expenditures for LEP Patients

A study published in Medical Care, the official journal of the medical care section, recently discovered that “Convenient Access to Professional Interpreters in the Hospital Decreases Readmission Rates and Estimated Hospital Expenditures for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Patients.”

Twenty-five million people in the United States are limited English proficient and this growing and aging population experiences worse outcomes when hospitalized, according to the research. The findings also revealed that federal legislation requiring healthcare facilities to provide language access services in the fast-paced, 24-hour care environment can be challenging to accommodate without an efficient and immediately accessible option.

The study discovered that providing easy access to interpreters in the acute-care hospital was associated with decreased 30-day readmission rates for patients with a language barrier. This improvement was lost once interpreters were less accessible. Providing clinicians with immediate access to interpreters, at any time, was a key component to the success of the intervention. Additionally, an effective implementation of access to interpreters in the hospital did, in fact, improve the quality of care for LEP patients.

These results are consistent with one other study conducted in 2012, “Professional language interpretation and inpatient length of stay and readmission rates” that demonstrated using professional interpreters at admission and/or discharge was associated with decreased readmission rates. However, this study is the first to demonstrate that a system-wide intervention providing increased access to interpreters throughout the hospital stay both decreased readmission rates and hospital expenses.

This study observed a decrease in readmissions for LEP patients that corresponded to the increase in access to professional interpreter services, and no overall change in length of stay (LOS). The study suggests that comprehensive language access for LEP patients represents an important service that all medical centers should provide to achieve equitable, high quality health care for vulnerable LEP populations. While there are modest costs associated with implementing professional interpreters, this is offset by estimated hospital expenditure savings which will be increasingly meaningful in the era of population-based health and accountable care organizations, to achieve more equitable care.

VRI technology is an efficient and effective option when interpreters are medically qualified and the technology meets strict ACA guidelines. InDemand partners with healthcare organizations to provide greater language access for LEP, Deaf and HOH patients, ensuring effective communication between patients and providers across the care continuum, while improving overall patient care. We are proud of our interpreters who are medically qualified, 100 percent healthcare focused and are based here in the United States.

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