3 Things Providers Can Do to Make Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Patients Comfortable in the Exam Room and achieve the best outcome

3 Things Providers Can Do to Make Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Patients Comfortable in the Exam Room and achieve the best outcome

Every physician and medical provider wants to make their patients comfortable in the exam room. When patients are comfortable, they can concentrate on the information their providers are sharing with them about their health. For patients with limited English proficiency, a visit to the doctor’s office can be uncomfortable and even stressful. Here are three things providers can do to ensure all patients feel comfortable and heard.

  1. Plan Ahead

One of the most important things you can do to make your patients with limited English proficiency more comfortable is to plan ahead. Before the appointment, ensure the interpreter in the room is a qualified medical interpreter rather than a family member or friend. If appropriate, brief the interpreter about what they can expect during the appointment: Will this be a diagnostic or procedure appointment. Will counseling or treatment recommendation be discussed.  The interpreter is a part of an effective care team.

During the appointment, plan to spend more time with patients with limited English skills than you would with native English speakers. Depending on where you practice, you may need to work with your patient coordinator to ensure you don’t become overbooked.

  1. Slow Down and Ask One Question at a Time

Medical interpreters are required to interpret everything said in the exam room, from diagnosis and treatment options to small talk and curse words. As you are speaking, slow down and try to ask just one question at a time. It is tempting to chain explanations and questions together but doing so can increase the chance of miscommunicating with your patient.

Speaking simply does not necessarily mean oversimplifying what you share with your patient or omitting complicated information. Instead, take your time and be patient as the medical interpreter does their work.

  1. Remember Whom You’re Talking to: Speak to your patient

Did your parents ever talk about you with a family member, friend, or teacher while you were standing right beside them? You probably felt like a little kid and made you wonder why they didn’t include you in the conversation.

It’s very easy for patients with limited English skills to feel the same way during medical appointments. Sometimes, providers speak to the interpreter about their patients. Remember you’re speaking through the interpreter, but to your patient. Make eye contact with your patient, not the interpreter, and speak to patient as if the interpreter was not in the room with you. Avoid using acronyms, idioms, or medical lingo, and encourage your patient to repeat essential information back to you through the interpreter.

With a little planning and consideration, you can ensure every patient you see is comfortable in your office. If you’d like to improve the care your limited English proficient patients receive, contact Intelligere today.