Persistent disparities in healthcare access hinder the nation's 26 million individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) from receiving quality care and, as a result, from achieving optimal health outcomes. Patients who struggle to understand their care providers report difficulty navigating both administrative and clinical procedures and experience significantly higher rates of delays in care delivery and poorer outcomes than their English-proficient counterparts. Despite numerous federal and state-level mandates for increased language assistance services, healthcare organizations have had limited success in tackling these challenges posed by the language barrier. This project aims to bring much-needed innovation to alleviate communication obstacles and accompanying health disparities. The envisioned solution will offer both in-clinic communication support and user-driven medical language skills acquisition training that can be accessed on desktop computers, touchscreen tablets, and mobile devices. The resultant system will leverage the medical provider community to identify actual in-clinic communication needs, which will drive the development of targeted learning materials that are relevant to the intended users. The medical interpreter community, a highly valuable but underutilized resource, will be leveraged to aid providers in their efforts to acquire second-language proficiency as well as provide on-demand live interpretations services through a streamlined method of connection on the envisioned product. The system will be evaluated by LEP patients, front-line healthcare providers, and certified medical interpreters to assess its ability to improve provider-patient communication and, in so doing, meaningfully contribute to addressing the health disparities facing these underserved populations.

Public Health Relevance

The rapidly growing population of persons with limited English proficiency (LEP) has profound implications for the healthcare system, as the miscommunications experienced by these individuals in clinical settings result in compromised care, and poses a greater financial burden on the hospitals that serve them compared to their English proficient counterparts. Directives from all levels of government to provide language assistance services to these underserved patients remain inadequately implemented, and the marketplace has similarly failed to provide practical and compelling solutions. In response to these challenges, this project will develop a comprehensive medical language assistance system that will both deliver engaging language skills acquisition training to providers and facilitate bilingual clinical dialog with their LEP patients, providing a much-needed solution with the potential to fill the void of effective medical communication tools and elevate the quality of care for a large segment of underserved patients.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Tabor, Derrick C
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Transcendent International, LLC
New York
United States
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