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Communicating with your multilingual patients
April 29, 2024

This article is for all providers caring for our members

You are likely aware that effective communication is essential for delivering quality care for your patients who speak English as a second language, have limited English proficiency (LEP), or who are hearing impaired. In this article, we share strategies to consider as you work to support the needs of your multilingual patient population.

Keep it simple with plain language.

Use this checklist to make your materials easier for your audience to understand:

  • Put the most important message first.
  • Choose everyday words that your audience knows.
  • Limit each sentence to 1 idea.
  • Make information easy to find by using heading, lists, or tables.

Tips for communicating with patients

  1. Assess your patient panel.

    Document patients’ preferred language and train staff to remain alert to language barriers. This will help you identify the demand for non-English materials and plan accordingly to match the provider or clinical team member who may have the language skills needed to provide care for the patient.

  2. Provide quality materials in other languages.

    Many federal and state laws require that health care resources are available in multiple languages to satisfy accreditation standards. Take steps to help ensure that translated materials are culturally appropriate by working with members of diverse communities.

  3. Give information in different formats.

    When possible, use videos, animations, and interactive content to convey health care information. This can help appeal to diverse audiences through visual representation of medical concepts and enhance patient understanding by combining auditory and visual elements.

  4. Offer support from interpreters and translators.

    Whenever possible, have interpreters and translators available to help you in your practice, especially if you do not have clinical staff available who can speak your patient’s preferred language.

  5. Consider adding to or advocating for adding clinical staff that can serve non-English speaking patients.

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