While patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) make up a minority (8.6%) of the U.S. population, they still account for more than 25 million people. That represents a sizable market for hospitals and healthcare systems that is generally underserved.
When a healthcare organization effectively uses language services to offer better care to LEP and deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) patient populations, there are significant opportunities to increase revenue. The major opportunities to increase revenue using reliable language services include:
In regions where the proportion of LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patients is particularly high, the use of a qualified medical interpreter can significantly increase Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores, which is the primary measure of patient satisfaction.
More than half of the HCAHPS survey asks patients to rate specific aspects of communication, including:
- Doctor communication
- Nurse communication
- Staff responsiveness
- Medication communication
- Discharge information
As part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, acute care hospitals subject to the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) must gather and provide HCAHPS data to receive their full IPPS annual payment. If HCAHPS scores are not publicly reported as required, IPPS payments may be reduced. In addition, the Affordable Care Act introduced value-based metrics that tie HCAHPS scores to Medicare reimbursement rates. Providing a better experience for LEP patients can have a direct impact on the payments a hospital receives for its services.
To promote overall quality of care for patients, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) instituted multiple incentive-driven programs for healthcare systems. As a result, hospitals are financially incentivized based on the quality of outcomes they report.
The most prominent example is the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program (VBP). This program adjusts payments to hospitals based on their performance against several quality measures, including clinical process metrics, patient experience and outcomes. Hospitals with higher scores receive higher payments, while those with lower scores receive lower payments.
Since reimbursement is tied to quality scores, hospitals that provide high-quality, cost-effective care to LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patients can see a direct impact on financial reimbursement for increasing patient satisfaction.
Improving communication between providers and LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patients can also help increase revenue by reducing missed appointments and improving adherence to the patient’s care plan.
Effective communication builds trust, which is vital in a healthcare setting. The level of confidence that an LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patient has in a provider will greatly impact the degree to which they will adhere to a care plan. This can translate to fewer missed appointments – which directly cost healthcare systems more than $200 billion each year. This is particularly relevant to LEP patients engaged in a long-term treatment plan, such as cancer treatment, that requires regular visits throughout the year.
In addition to reducing missed appointments, improved communication between LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patients and healthcare providers can also encourage patients to take a more active role in their own care by scheduling regular well-check visits and preventative care screenings such as colonoscopies and mammograms. These types of LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patient visits represent a significant opportunity for increased revenue.
Patient loyalty and referrals
Delivering a positive experience for LEP and deaf and hard of hearing patients can impact more than just HCAHPS scores. Leveraged properly, the effective use of language services can also drive patient loyalty and referrals within entire communities and subcultures, resulting in higher patient volumes.
Carla Fogaren, a national consultant on language access and president of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care, has witnessed this effect firsthand during her experience serving as a language access director.
“At one hospital, Brazilian and Haitian LEP patients were moving further south geographically to take advantage of a lower cost of living,” explained Fogaren. “Despite the distance, those same patients would continue to drive more than an hour to receive care at our hospital – all because they knew the interpreters would take care of them and make sure they were treated well.”
This example underscores the value that LEP patients place on effective communication, and how that value can translate to increased revenue.
The above was an excerpt of a whitepaper titled “Language Services: A Path to Value for your Business – Improving Outcomes for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Patients” published by AMN Healthcare. Learn more by visiting www.amnhealthcare.com/technology/virtual-care/language-services.
About the author
Jacobia Solomon, president of Language Services, is responsible for the leadership, strategic direction, vision, growth, and performance of AMN Healthcare Language Service. Solomon joined AMN Healthcare in 2022 with extensive experience in innovation, growth, and transformation; global technology integrations and solutions and working in diverse industries.