In a study conducted by Washington State University, researchers found that a person seeking language services at a hospital would have to navigate an average of one to four website pages in order to get the translated documents or interpreter that the facility advertises as available to patients. The study was conducted by Associate Professor Janessa Graves of the Washington State University College of Nursing. The results of the study were recently published in a peer-reviewed publication, the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.
The study took a look at all 93 of Washington's licensed hospitals. Graves explained that they looked at websites because a lot of patients review them for information on financial aid and explanations of medical procedures. Patients may also look at hospital websites for details about translation or interpretation services for a future appointment.
About 20 percent of the hospital websites indicated language services on their home page. In almost all of them, that information was in English. This seemed counterproductive to Graves. Past studies have demonstrated that lack of fluency in English leads to poorer quality of care, lack of following the provider's instructions and increased disparities in outcomes. Any organization that gets federal money is supposed to offer translation and interpretation services.
About 7.6 percent of Washington residents ages five and older have limited English proficiency. That has doubled between 1980 and 2015. In Washington, the most common first languages are Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Tagalog, Korean and Vietnamese, listed in order of use. Even though there are federal requirements on language services, most hospitals provide few details about the services a patient can actually receive.
Only 10 hospitals had a translation of their website. None of them had a Chinese translation, even though it is the most commonly spoken language in Washington after English. Large hospitals were more likely to show language services, as are those with a lot of revenue. The demographics of the community had no association with language services, the study found. Website designers commented that when lawyers run out of schools to sue, they might start suing hospitals for non-compliance. For more information click here https://news.wsu.edu/2020/02/03/hospital-websites-lack-usability-non-english-speakers/.