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Children's Hospital to Participate in Initiative to Better Communicate with Patients Who Speak Limited English

December 13, 2006

 Children’s has been selected as one of 10 hospitals nationwide to participate in Speaking Together: National Language Services Network, a national program to improve the quality of healthcare provided to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Children’s has been selected as one of 10 hospitals nationwide to participate in Speaking Together: National Language Services Network, a national program to improve the quality of healthcare provided to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Children’s will participate in a high-level national learning collaborative aimed at helping to develop tested language services programs that provide more effective and timely communications to patients with LEP.

Research shows that when patients have difficulty communicating with their health care providers, they are far less likely to understand their conditions, adequately communicate symptoms or adhere to treatment recommendations.

While all hospitals nationwide are legally required to provide language services to patients who speak limited English, there are no federal guidelines on the most effective ways to communicate with these patients.

“For the last few years we have been intensely involved in standardizing our processes to improve patient safety and the quality of care at Children’s,” said Patrick Hagan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Children’s.

“Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help us take a closer look at our interpreter services to identify ways to improve the quality of care for patients with limited English proficiency.”

In 2005, Children’s commissioned a study to discover what barriers existed to providing the best care for patient families with LEP. Researchers found that hospital admissions, tests and the possibility for medical errors increased for patients whose families had LEP and did not receive the services of an interpreter.

Based on the findings, the hospital has initiated several performance improvement efforts to ensure that interpreters are available for families.

Serving a four state region, Children’s provides over 40,000 interpreted encounters annually in over 45 languages. The most common interpreted languages are Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, and Somali.

Children’s is one of only two pediatric hospitals nationwide to participate in the RWJF initiative and chose to focus the RWJF research on cardiac care and emergency services.

“We are focusing on interpreted care in our cardiology and emergency departments because of the large proportion of children and families speaking diverse languages.

We recognize that good communication between families and care providers is critical for providing the best care for the child.” said Dr. Beth Ebel, primary investigator at Children’s. “The results from this collaboration will help shape Children’s services to better reflect the needs of our patients and reduce health disparities.”

Children’s will receive a grant of $60,000, as well as technical assistance and training using quality improvement measures.

The 16-month collaborative process will examine how the hospitals communicate with non-English-speaking patients, and will focus on how hospital staff can better structure and manage language services programs in order to have effective, efficient and timely communications with LEP patients.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Speaking Together will take best practices learned from Children’s and other partners, and will share these findings with health professionals across the nation. The goal is to provide examples of effective language services programs and interventions to hospitals serving linguistically diverse patients.

Information about Speaking Together is available at their website.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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