AMN Languages Services, the division of AMN Healthcare that provides medical interpretation services, recently conducted a survey documenting the diversity of languages used in healthcare settings in the United States. The report, which was released Aug. 30, was compiled using more than 110 million minutes of recordings of the company’s interpretation services from the last year.
The company found that, aside from English, interactions between patients and their healthcare providers take place in more than 50 different languages across the country. The report is the first that the company has published, so no comparisons with past years can be made, however AMN notes that it plans to release updated data each year, in order to provide data on the shifting nature of the nation’s linguistic diversity.
“The pattern is clear,” said Maureen Huber, the president of Dallas-based AMN Healthcare Workforce Technology Solutions. “From Mandarin to Arabic to Swahili to Hmong, and many others, patients in U.S. healthcare facilities are speaking a broader array of languages than ever before.”
Spanish is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most commonly spoken language other than English in most states — about 74% of non-English interactions between patients and healthcare providers took place in Spanish. Vermont, Hawaii, and Maine were the only states in which Spanish was not the most common language other than English was spoken (Nepali, Mandarin, and Arabic respectively were the most frequently used in these states).
The report stresses the importance of making accommodations for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). Nearly 70 million residents of the country have LEP, and this language barrier can be especially difficult to overcome in the healthcare setting, where it’s crucial that patients and their families can fully understand and communicate with their doctors about the nature of their condition. According to the report, 9% of U.S. residents are at risk of adverse health outcomes as a result of such language barriers.
“In an increasingly diverse country, access to healthcare is not just determined by economic factors, geographic location, or health insurance coverage, it may also be determined by the ability of patients to communicate with their caregivers,” the report reads.