BACKGROUND:

Language barriers are associated with poor health care outcomes, and barriers exist for timely in-person interpretation. Although available on-demand, telephonic interpretation remains underutilized. This study evaluates whether a quality improvement (QI) intervention was associated with rates of interpretation and parent-reported language service use at a children’s hospital.

METHODS:

The QI intervention was developed by a multidisciplinary team and included provider education, electronic alerts, standardized dual-handset telephones, and 1-touch dialing in all hospital rooms. Interpreter use was tracked for 12 months before, 5 months during, and 12 months after the intervention. Weekly rates of interpretation per limited English proficient (LEP) patient-day were evaluated by using segmented linear regression. LEP parents were surveyed about professional interpretation and delays in care. Responses before, during, and after the intervention were compared by using the χ2 test for trend.

RESULTS:

Telephonic interpretation rates increased by 53% after the intervention (baseline 0.38 per patient-day, increased 0.20 [0.13–0.28]). Overall (telephonic and in-person) interpretation increased by 54% (baseline 0.96, increased by 0.51 [0.38–0.64]). Parent-reported interpreter use improved, including more frequent use of professional interpreters (53.3% before, 71.8% during, 69.3% after, P trend = .001), less frequent use of ad hoc interpreters (52.4% before, 38.1% during, 41.4% after, P trend = .03), and fewer interpretation-related delays in care (13.3% before, 7.9% during, 6.0% after, P trend = .01).

CONCLUSIONS:

This QI intervention was associated with increased telephonic interpreter use and improved parent-reported use of professional language services. This is a promising approach to deliver safe, timely, and equitable care for the growing population of LEP children and families.

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