Language Barries Affecting In-Home Care

According to recent research published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, patients with language challenges who acquire home health care are at a higher risk of hospital readmission. 

The Impact of Language Barriers on In-Home Care

Language limitations between patients and caregivers can make effective communication difficult and have been found to possess a negative influence on patient safety and quality of care. Based on the new study, individuals who are most at ease speaking a language different than the prevailing local language are more likely to have longer hospital admissions falls, and infections, including unfavorable consequences.  

Given that translator services might be more difficult to adopt and obtain in the home setting, language gaps may be especially harmful in-home health care, where health practitioners, typically nurses, visit patients’ homes to offer care. Many home care patients, who are generally elderly persons over the age of 65, may not have a stable internet connection and technical equipment, making phone or video interpreter services impossible to use. 

A previous study executed by Allison Squires, an Associate Professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, discovered home health care providers are not meeting the sufficient demand for language services among different populations. Only 20% of patients that spoke a language other than English were by a caregiver who spoke their language. 

Researchers reviewed electronic health data for more than 87,000 patients living in NYC who were obtaining home health care after being released from a hospital to see if a patient’s language preference affects hospital readmission risk following home health care. They focused the research on the five most prevalent languages that the patients studied: English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Korean. After, they checked who had been readmitted to the hospital within the previous 30 days.  

Patients who preferred a language other than English had a greater hospital readmission rate (20.4%) than English-speaking patients (18.5%). The risk of readmission differed by language, with Spanish ad Russian speakers facing a greater risk and Chinese and Korean Speakers seeing a reduced risk. 

To address this discrepancy, it has been recommended, by the researchers, a variety of approaches, which include team-based care transition programs from hospital to home health care that represent patient language preferences, improved translation skills, and health care providers that speak the same languages as their patients.

Information from News Medical Life Sciences – Article “Home care patients with language barriers may be vulnerable to poor outcomes”

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Ashlyn Pieri

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