Study Finds Limited English Proficient Patients with Chronic Heart and Lung Conditions More Likely to Return to the Hospital Than Their Proficient Peers

Study Finds Limited English Proficient Patients with Chronic Heart and Lung Conditions More Likely to Return to the Hospital Than Their Proficient Peers

A new study conducted in two Canadian hospitals found Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients were more likely than their English-proficient peers to return to the hospital after receiving care for chronic heart and lung conditions.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October 2019, compared the rates of return visits to the hospital of LEP patients and English-proficient patients. The patients were treated for one of two chronic conditions (COPD or heart disease) or two acute conditions (pneumonia or hip fracture).

No difference was found between the rate of return visits for LEP patients and English-proficient patients receiving care for acute conditions. However, the study found a statistically significant difference in the rate of return visits for patients suffering from chronic heart and lung conditions.

Study Findings by the Numbers

Twenty-two percent of LEP patients treated for heart failure visited the ER within 30 days. However, just 15 percent of English-proficient patients did so. The study also found the LEP patients were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital. LEP patients with COPD were not more likely to visit the ER than their English-proficient peers. But they were 4 percent more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.

The lead researcher on the study believes the findings indicate that language barriers in hospital settings have a direct impact on the treatment and long-term prognosis of patients with chronic and complex medical diagnoses. While treatments for pneumonia and hip fractures follow a standard set of protocols, treatments for chronic heart and lung conditions are more complicated. If providers fail to accommodate LEP patients, it is more likely those patients will struggle to understand and follow-through with their treatment plans, landing them back in the hospital.

What Providers Can Do to Improve Patient Outcomes

This study illustrates the need for highly qualified medical interpreters, especially for patients experiencing chronic heart and lung conditions. Many providers have access to medical interpreters through their hospital or clinic. Proactively including a medical interpreter on the patient’s care team can help improve communication between provider and patient as well as the patient’s understanding of their treatment plan. Hopefully, this will lead to better follow-through at home and fewer return visits to the hospital or ER.

To include medical interpretation in the care plan for your LEP patients, contact Intelligere today.