Limited English Proficiency Patients to Flood U.S. Hospitals

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will bring 9 million newly insured limited English-speaking patients to U.S. hospitals, according to Stratus Video. Hospitals must now meet new regulatory standards and provide interpreting services or risk noncompliance with federal law.

Healthcare providers are already encountering a rising number of patients who speak limited English: 26 million Americans speak limited English – a rapidly growing number that has increased by 30% over the past decade. That’s more than triple the growth rate of the U.S. population. Fewer than half of patients who need an interpreter usually get such assistance, despite studies proving that language barriers are highly associated with repeat visits to the emergency room, fatalities, and medical malpractice lawsuits.

The average hospital spends nearly $1 million a year on language services. But services are often underutilized because they are difficult to access. However, according to Stratus CEO Sean Belanger, the costs of language services pale in comparison to those associated with malpractice suits due to language barriers. A tragic example of a language barrier involves 18-year old Willie Ramirez. A paramedic misunderstood what Ramizez was trying to say, assuming that he was intoxicated rather than nauseated. He was mistakenly treated for drug abuse, then suffered a brain aneurysm and became a quadriplegic. The resulting malpractice case awarded the patient $71 million. One study found that 2.5% of a malpractice insurance company’s lawsuits could be blamed on the lack of use of interpreters, at a cost of about $5 million to the company that year. For more information, visit www.stratusvideo.com.

Last Updated 09/23/2020

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