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Advancing Health Equity at
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Communication Tools

Effective communication is the cornerstone to ensuring you reach those you serve, providing the highest quality of care and services and advancing health equity at every point of contact.

Language access services (LAS) are designed to ensure effective communication between individuals with limited English proficiency and English speakers. Primary LAS include interpretation (oral) and translation (written) services. LAS can also involve other provisions to enhance communication, such as signage and symbols for wayfinding.

This section of Think Cultural Health offers tools and resources that will help you and your organization communicate effectively with your patients and clients, including A Patient-Centered Guide To Implementing Language Access Services In Healthcare Organizations. The Guide helps health care organizations implement effective LAS to meet the needs of those with limited English proficiency (LEP), thereby increasing their access to health care. The guide lays out the basic steps for implementing LAS, and the process for carrying out each step is explained in detail and supplemented with links to resources and tips.

Patient Points of Contact

A Patient-Centered Guide To Implementing Language Access Services In Healthcare Organizations highlights the process that patients and family members go through when seeking health care services, specifically at each point of contact throughout the delivery of a continuum of care.

The diagram below summarizes many of the patient points of contact within a health care organization. Each box identifies a point of contact and the corresponding parts of the Guide that address it.

You may use the diagram below to determine the location of resources for that point of contact within the Guide. Click on a point of contact to view its description and a link to access the Guide for more information.

Image of a Calendar
Initial contact and appointment scheduling

Step 2

Patient enters the health care system, whether during business hours, after hours, nights, or weekends, through the emergency room or through automated phone directory.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a hospital sign indicating directions
Entering the health care organization and navigation through the system

Resource Units B, C, and D

Patient uses signage and wayfinding techniques adapted by the organization as navigation tools and for explanations and orientation to the organization.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a patient filling out a registration form
Registration

Step 1; Resource Units A, B, and D

Patient completes forms with assistance of staff/interpreter. Staff member determines interpretation needs based on the information provided by the patient.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a woman on the phone
Preparation for visit

Step 2; Resource Unit A

Depending on the language needs of the LEP patient, the organization makes resources available for the LEP patient's appointment (i.e., speaker phones in examination rooms, scheduling and confirming interpreters).

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of brochures and pamphlets
Waiting in the lobby

Resource Units B, C, and D

Organization provides informational materials, such as signage and patient education materials, in the languages commonly encountered in the patient population.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a billing representative greeting a patient
Billing

Step 2; Resource Units A, B, and C

Organization has a system for communication internally between departments, and billing department personnel are aware of LAS needs. Interpreter accompanies patient to the billing department. Organization provides the appropriate translated information on navigation through the health insurance system and how to seek assistance with the billing process.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a researcher performing lab work
Procedures, radiology, and lab work

Step 2; Resource Unit A

Organization has a system for communication internally between departments, and lab personnel are aware of LAS needs. Interpreter accompanies patient to the appropriate departments.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a doctor meeting with a patient
Diagnosis and explanation of treatment and discharge plan

Resource Units A, B, and C

With interpreter present, provider verifies that the patient understands the diagnosis and provides to the patient translated informational materials and discharge instructions.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a doctor meeting with a patient
Assessment and clinical encounter, including physical exam

Step 2; Resource Unit A

Organization provides an interpreter or some kind of interpretation service and allots enough time for the appointment, taking into consideration the extra time needed for interpretation services.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a doctor discussing care with a patient
Discussion of referrals

Steps 1 and 2; Resource Units A, B, and C

Interpreter accompanies patient to the clerk for scheduling and referral. Clerk and interpreter explain to patient the referral process. Clerk calls outside referral organization to inform it of the LAS needs of the patient, ensures that it can cater to the patient's LAS needs, and schedules an appointment for the patient with the referral organization. Organization provides the appropriate multilingual handouts on returning to the organization.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of prescription medication
Pharmacy

Step 2; Resource Units A, B, and C

Organization has a system for communication internally between departments, and pharmacy is aware of LAS needs. Interpreter accompanies patient to the pharmacy. Pharmacy provides translated forms, prescription labels, and instructional sheets regarding prescriptions, as well as information on receiving refills.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of a patient at a computer
Reminders and follow-up communication

Steps 1 and 2; Resource Units A and B

Reminders and follow-up communication are sent to the patient (via mail and/or telephone) in the patient's language. Patient contact information is confirmed and patient need for LAS is periodically re-assessed.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.

Image of an evaluation form
Patient complaint and incident reporting

Steps 1 and 2; Resource Units A and B

Organization informs the patient of his or her right to file complaints and incident reports and explains the process for doing so.

Learn more about this by registering for A Patient-Centered Guide.