26Health Launches Language Access Services

by Caitlin Ultimo

Attending—and if we’re being real, even scheduling—a doctor’s appointment can be a daunting task. Medical interpretation professionals and patients rely on clinics to provide language access services. You’re not only faced with the concern for your health and personal well-being but you also could be subjected to intimidation, microaggressions, and poor bedside manner. Many clinics believe that a physical issue or condition is all that needs to be addressed and treated. But there is so much more behind one ailment, disease, or sickness. And there are so many variables and details that can contribute to an accurate diagnosis.

Even when a doctor and patient share the same language, the words exchanged between the two can seem foreign. And for those patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), the consequences of this language barrier only complicate, if not entirely block, an accurate course of treatment.

26Health works hard to push against these disappointing norms that the healthcare industry accepts as the status quo. Language Access Services is just one example of how we plan to better connect with, understand, and treat our patients. This new addition to our services will improve access to high-quality care for patients with diverse language and communication needs. And we hope that 26Health’s responsiveness to the needs of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations can serve as an example to other community healthcare clinics.

“It’s important for us to offer Language Access Services because we live in one of the most diverse communities here in Central Florida. We are a community clinic so we must provide services in the languages that our community feels most comfortable,” says Angela Martinez, 26Health’s Special Projects Manager. She adds, “26Health commits to advance health equity at every point of contact.”

Today, 26Health offers services in various spoken languages via medical interpreters, including American Sign Language (ASL) in English and Spanish. Spoken languages offered are Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Haitian, Creole, and Vietnamese, as well as other languages upon request.

It is also important to note that vital documents will be available in those languages. Sometimes, the paperwork in itself can be enough to intimidate someone away from seeking the medical care they need.

All bilingual staff will be qualified by an external agency to assist patients in their language in a clinical setting. Martinez understands the importance of this because of her own first-hand experience with a language barrier while acting as her father’s caregiver when he was ill with Alzheimer’s.

“I saw that he deteriorated fast because he wasn’t able to communicate. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressively worsening deficits in several cognitive domains, including language. I experienced how important that was for a provider who needed to make an accurate assessment with someone [who has] a language impairment or decline. I witnessed many errors made,” says Martinez.

A medical interpreter will utilize our language access services and act as a cultural broker to ensure that the patient understands. They could rephrase the question of “Are you well?” to “The doctor is asking ‘how are you feeling today?’” As Martinez states, “Interpreting allows you to consider cultural nuances, and this can help you better advocate for that patient in many ways.”

Although in recent years healthcare facilities and agencies across the United States have made strides in providing linguistically appropriate services. The lack of qualified interpreters continues to be a barrier to healthcare for limited English proficient (LEP) patients.

26Health understands why it is so important to eliminate that risk factor of a misunderstanding. When served in their language, a person can fully connect with their provider and understand their treatment plan so that there are no gray areas and there is no sense of division between them and their healthcare provider.

26Health wants our services to be financially accessible, but we also want to be more. Says Martinez: “We want to make a place that is culturally competent to care for our community, our neighbors. That’s why 26Health is so special: because we do care and take care of the patient on that personal level.”