How do language barriers impact home health care? An article posted on Daily Nurse describes a new study that yielded an interesting result. “For people with limited ability to communicate in English, having the same home health nurse across visits significantly decreases hospital readmissions, regardless of whether the patient and nurse speak the same language,” according to the article.
The study consisted of 22,103 patients receiving home care in NYC after a hospitalization. Each of these patients did not speak English as their primary language; their primary languages were Spanish, Russian, Korean, or Chinese.
The researchers concluded that having a nurse that spoke the same language as the patient yielded the best results and had the best chance of reducing the risk of readmission to the hospital. However, the consistency of the nurse regardless of language spoken also helped reduce hospital readmissions. Hospital readmissions cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $41 billion annually.
Previous research has indicated that home care patients that speak a language other than English are at a higher risk of:
The article states, “The researchers conclude that healthcare providers should maximize continuity of care after hospitalization—particularly when language barriers cannot be addressed directly through staffing.”
Nurses who regularly see the same patients get to know not only the patient, but their family, friends, and caregivers. This gives a unique advantage despite possible language barriers. Researchers emphasize the importance of continuity of care to reduce hospital readmissions. The study indicated that while results varied per language, continuity of care still reduced the risk of readmissions.
In instances where the healthcare provider doesn’t speak the same language as the patient, interpreter services may be needed. Home care agencies often rely on telephone translation services as many seniors may not have internet access needed for video calls. Also, interpreter services are not always covered by insurance. Many insurance companies only reimburse for interpreter services if mandated by state law.
In a perfect world, each home care agency would have nurses that speak all the languages of their clients. However, this is unrealistic because there are not enough nurses to meet that sort of demand.
If you have any questions about home care for your loved ones, you can contact us. You can also check out the rest of our blog posts on our website.
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