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

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

Seattle Children’s Hospital, Foundation and Research Institute together deliver superior patient care, advance new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s Hospital specializes in meeting the unique physical, emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, and emergency and outreach services to families from around the world.

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention, bioethics and much more.

Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association work together to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care, clinical care and research. The foundation receives nearly 80,000 gifts each year, from lemonade stand proceeds to corporate sponsorships. Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association is the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, serving as the umbrella organization for 450 groups of people who turn an activity they love into a fundraiser. Support from the foundation and guild association makes it possible for Seattle Children’s care and research teams to improve the health and well-being of all kids.

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