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Press Releases

NYC Public Hospitals See Increased Demand for Language Services Among Non- English Speaking Patients

Jun 04, 2013

New York, NY

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) today announced that it will invest approximately $31 million over the next five years for 24 hour-a- day, 7-day-a-week over-the-phone medical interpretation services. Since 2010, HHC’s 11 hospitals and dozens of community health centers have experienced a 22 percent increase in requests for over-the-phone interpreter services for patients with limited English proficiency with 700,000 requests in 2012. The number of minutes spent on over-the-phone interpretations – a service where an interpreter on the phone relays complex and sensitive medical information between doctor and patient – increased by 55 percent during the same time period to 6.9 million minutes.
Phone interpretation is just one of several language services provided by HHC. The public healthcare system also offers the assistance of professional interpreters, trained staff interpreters, health instructions and literature for patients in the 13 most common languages at HHC, and multi-language signage appropriate to the patient population of each hospital and health facility.
HHC’s patient population now speaks more than 190 languages and dialects, and 25 percent of patients have limited English proficiency, making the public hospital system’s investments to provide clear and concise medical information to patients in a language they can understand more important than ever.
“New York is a city of immigrants and HHC has decades of experience in providing care to people who speak little or no English,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “Despite the tremendous increase in demand for more language assistance, we have been able to link every patient to professional interpretations services to ensure they understand their medical needs and can be fully engaged in their care. When language barriers are eliminated, we increase patient safety and the healthcare provider and the patient can communicate with confidence.”
HHC found:

  • Last year alone, the public hospital system fulfilled almost 700,000 requests for telephone interpreter services, up from more than 563,000 two years earlier.
  • The number of minutes HHC spent on over-the-phone interpreting services for patients grew by 55 percent, from 4.4 million minutes in FY10 to 6.9 million minutes in FY12.
  • The cost of providing over-the-phone interpretation services increased from more than $4.9 million in FY10 to almost $6.7 million in 2012.
  • Spanish was the top language requested by HHC patients, with 469,648 requests, or 68 percent of the total; followed by Mandarin with 42,676 minutes, or 6 percent; Bengali with 33,478, or 5 percent; Polish with 19,131, or 3 percent; French with 14,321, or 2 percent.
  • The more unusual language requests included one for Kanjobal, a Mayan dialect.

“Communication and understanding between healthcare provider and patient form the basis for the delivery of compassionate, culturally responsive, patient-centered healthcare,” said Caroline Jacobs, HHC Senior Vice President for Patient Safety and Human Development. “Language access services are critical to delivering that care by enabling patients to communicate with their healthcare providers and enabling healthcare providers to accurately and clearly relay complex and sensitive medical information to patients.”
Federal laws and external review agencies including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Joint Commission, NY State Department of Health, and Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act, mandate that healthcare be provided in a manner understood by patients.
HHC’s language services also include:

  • Specialized Medical Interpretation Training:HHC has a diverse staff that represents the culturally and linguistically diverse populations of the communities it serves. Selected HHC bilingual and multilingual staff gets specialized medical interpretation training tailored to their professional need in the HHC-CUNY Healthcare Interpreter Certification Program. So far the program has trained about 50 people as healthcare interpreters.
  • Translations of Essential Documents and Patient Education Materials: HHC consent forms, policies, health education materials, and many other written communications are available in English and another 13 languages spoken by the majority of patients: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.
  • Multilanguage Signage: HHC hospitals, primary care and specialty clinics display signage appropriate to their patient population; the signage has won national recognition from the Society for Environmental Graphic Design.

Contact: Ian Michaels (HHC) (212) 788-3339

About HHC

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is a $6.7 billion integrated healthcare delivery system with its own 420,000 member health plan, MetroPlusHealth, and is the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country. HHC serves 1.4 million New Yorkers every year and more than 475,000 are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, four skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 70 community based clinics. HHC Health and Home Care also provides in-home services for New Yorkers. HHC was the 2008 recipient of the National Quality Forum and The Joint Commission’s John M. Eisenberg Award for Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality. For more information, visit www.nychhc.org/hhc or find us on facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or twitter.com/NYCHealthSystem.