Physicians are struggling to overcome language and cultural barriers in communicating with patients, according to a new national survey released by the Center for Studying Health System Change.
Docs wrestle cultural, language barriers: survey
The survey, Modest and Uneven: Physician Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that nearly half (48.6%) of all physicians in 2008 had reported minor communications problems associated with language or cultural barriers, affecting their ability to provide high-quality care.
While less than 5% viewed it as a major problem, physicians' efforts to overcome communication barriers “are modest and uneven,” the survey stated. Only about 7% reported they routinely used information technology to keep track of patients' preferred languages, while 40% said they had received training in minority health issues. Slightly more than half said their practices provided some interpreter services, according to the HSC survey.
“Although disparities certainly stem from factors beyond the physician-patient encounter, the ability of physicians to communicate effectively with patients from diverse backgrounds is important to providing high-quality care,” said James Reschovsky, HSC senior researcher and coauthor of the study, in a written statement.
The findings are drawn from HSC's nationally representative 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, and includes responses from more than 4,700 physicians. The response rate for the survey was 62%.
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