Helping LEP Patients Feel Comfortable in the Exam Room

Helping LEP Patients Feel Comfortable in the Exam Room

Going to the doctor’s office is stressful for many people, and can be especially so for patients with limited English proficiency. Not being confident that they’ll be understood by their provider or understand what their provider is saying can cause anxiety for LEP patients.

Fortunately, there are several things providers can do to make their patients with limited English proficiency feel more comfortable in the exam room.

Make a Plan

A little planning on your part can make a big difference in patient comfort. Expect appointments with patients with limited English proficiency to take a bit longer than other appointments to account for the time it takes to interpret your conversation you’ll have with your patient.

Arrange for a medical interpreter to be present in the exam room if possible. If not, arrange high-quality medical interpreting over telephone or video. Resist the urge have a patient’s friend or family member serve as an interpreter. They do not have the expertise or experience to ensure you can understand your patient’s concerns and that your patient understands you.

Speak to Your Patient, Not the Interpreter

During your patient’s appointment, please remember to always speak directly to your patient, not the medical interpreter. You’re speaking to your patient through the interpreter. Make eye contact with your patient and speak to them as if the interpreter is not in the room with you. The highly qualified medical interpreter will prompt the patient to do the same with you.

Slow Down and Simplify

When you speak directly to your patient through a medical interpreter, it is helpful to slow down and simplify. Try to limit your sentences to one idea at a time, as complex sentences can lead to confusion and misunderstandings (this is true of communication with all patients). Avoid using acronyms, idioms, or medical lingo. However, speaking more slowly and in shorter sentences does not mean you should oversimplify or omit information. Just take your time and be patient as the medical interpreter does their work.

With some 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.