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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals Launches Awareness Campaign To Promote Patient Rights To Language Services

"I Speak" campaign eliminates barriers to care, improves patient safety, increases patient satisfaction; health system provides 24/7 assistance in 200 languages and dialects

Access to language appropriate health services regardless of immigration status is a vital component of the City's guaranteed health care for all initiative

Apr 18, 2019

New York, NY

Front of “I Speak” patient card

Back of “I Speak” patient card

NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation’s largest public health care system serving more than 1 million New Yorkers every year, today announced the launch of an awareness campaign to promote patient rights to language services and help eliminate barriers to care, improve patient safety and increase patient satisfaction. In recognition of Immigrant Heritage Week, the health system’s “I Speak” campaign features education and marketing materials in 16 languages aimed at promoting the wide array of interpretation services available to limited English speakers and showcasing the diversity among the health system’s workforce. Access to language-appropriate health services — regardless of immigration status — is a vital component of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Guaranteed Health Care plan and the NYC Care program that NYC Health + Hospitals will launch this summer.

NYC Health + Hospitals invests approximately $10 million annually to provide 24/7 assistance in 200 languages and dialects through telephonic, video and in-person interpretation, including sign-language services, to ensure patients receive safe, quality care in their language. The health system responds to 1 million requests for interpretation services annually, which translates into more than 13 million minutes of interpretation services every year.

“Language access services help close racial disparities and communication barriers that can lead to fewer doctor visits, avoidance of preventive health services, misdiagnoses and poor patient satisfaction,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals. “As a primary care doctor, I know well how important it is to understand and be understood by my patients. I speak Spanish and use it all the time with my patients at Gouverneur. It makes a huge difference. And I am grateful to have access to the amazing interpretation services we have available to help the many other limited English speakers I care for.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals values diversity and our workforce prides itself on providing a safe, welcoming environment to all New Yorkers, irrespective of a person’s immigration status or language spoken,” said Matilde Roman, Esq., NYC Health + Hospitals Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. “One way we do this is by making language services available so that our patients can speak to their doctor or nurse in the language they feel most comfortable. We say, ‘diversity is our specialty’, and every day staff at NYC Health + Hospitals strive to provide culturally responsive services to meet our patients’ diverse needs.”

“47 percent of Brooklynites speak a language other than English at home. Health care must be able to communicate in the languages of our patients, in order for Brooklyn to truly be a safe place that raises healthy children and families. I commend Dr. Katz and the entire NYC Health + Hospitals team for speaking loud and clear about all the ways that our city’s public health care system supports New Yorkers with limited English proficiency,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Cultural and linguistic competence is key to ensuring patient engagement and safety,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “As the largest public health system in the country, H+H is a leader in providing language-appropriate health care to New Yorkers regardless of immigration status.”

The “I Speak” your language campaign features:

  • Education materials in the top 16 languages spoken by NYC Health + Hospitals patients promoting the availability of free interpretation services;
  • “I Speak” cards to help patients communicate in their preferred language and request an interpreter in that language;
  • “I Speak” buttons for staff to wear that easily communicates to patients the languages they speak;
  • Video featuring diverse NYC Health + Hospitals staff saying “Your health matters” and “You have a right to receive health services” in multiple languages;
  • An updated information sheet for staff on using qualified medical interpreters by telephone, video, or in-person.

NYC Health + Hospitals offers patients and families the following types of free interpretation services:

  • Telephonic/over-the-phone interpretation: Uses a dual handset, wireless or mobile telephonic device to connect to a qualified medical interpreter.
  • Video remote interpretation: Uses a web-based portal (on a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device) to access a qualified American Sign Language (ASL) medical interpreter, who helps the provider and deaf or hard of hearing patient communicate. This method also offers interpretation in select spoken languages.
  • On site medical interpreters: Qualified medical interpreters help (in person) the provider and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patient communicate.
  • Language appropriate forms and education materials: NYC Health + Hospitals translates essential documents into the top 13 languages understood by LEP patients: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Haitian Creole, Hindi, French, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.