As the U.S. enters flu season, healthcare professionals are scrambling to answer an important question: What happens when COVID-19 and the flu collide?
Although it may seem like a cruel prank from mother nature, experts believe you can get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. That means flu vaccine outreach and early treatment will be more vital than ever, especially within the most vulnerable communities. Groups such as Latinos, Native Americans, and members of the Black community all have a higher risk of hospitalization due to the flu and COVID-19.
Language Barriers and Access to Healthcare
In addition to racial and ethnic disparities in health risks, limited English speaking (LEP) patients face language barriers that prevent them from receiving adequate care. While 97% of doctors report having patients who don’t speak English, only 56% of hospitals offer linguistic and translation services. And that gap in language services extends beyond interacting with medical professionals.
According to a study by Academic Pediatrics, Spanish speakers reported several reasons why they struggled to navigate the healthcare system. These include:
- Inability to make an appointment over the phone.
- Trouble with registration and communicating with office staff.
- Difficulty understanding recommendations for treatment and follow-up care.
Medical Interpreters vs. Bilingual Staff
Although bilingual staff members make excellent additions to medical practices, they can’t always bridge the language gap. They may have difficulty conveying the meaning between two languages and may miscommunicate information, especially during an appointment. Medical interpreters, on the other hand, are highly trained linguists with specialized knowledge of the medical system. They help ensure patients and healthcare professionals understand each other, and that nothing is lost “in translation”.
The Benefits of Remote Medical Interpreting
Unfortunately, onsite medical interpreters aren’t always readily available. Academic Pediatrics found that many Spanish speakers faced long wait times or had to resort to hiring their own interpreter before an appointment.
Over-the-phone and video remote interpretation allows healthcare providers to connect with a medical interpreter within minutes. You can easily connect when a patient:
- Calls to make an appointment.
- Needs assistance registering or has questions for the office staff.
- Is undergoing a medical exam.
These remote options have the added benefit of allowing healthcare professionals, patients, and interpreters to practice social distancing. As patients turn to telehealth to treat minor ailments during the pandemic, remote interpreting allows LEP patients to access it as well.
A Note About Translation
Keep in mind that LEP patients may need documents or other healthcare information translated—in addition to a medical interpreter. Respondents to the Academic Pediatrics survey reported that receiving translated instructions for treatment and follow-up care was helpful.
You may want to translate brochures and other documents you typically give to patients to ensure they have all the information they need.
How INGCO International Can Help
Addressing the dual challenge of COVID and the flu may seem daunting, especially when you add linguistic barriers to the mix. That’s why INGCO International is here to assist with the language side of healthcare. We provide medical interpreting and translation services for healthcare facilities in over 200 languages.
Contact us today to discuss your language needs!