Coronavirus and Language Access: Preparing for the Journey Ahead [Part 1]

Female language access coordinator wearing coat, backpack, and face mask

While experts are making predictions of a second wave of COVID-19, or even a second peak, nothing is definitive. There’s still a lot of uncertainty.  

One thing we can count on is that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon; we’re going to be living with it until a vaccine is developed and widely available. So instead of looking at what we need to do as language access professionals to prepare for the next few weeks, or even months, we need to take a long-term, thoughtful approach, to make sure all limited English proficient (LEP) patients continue to receive the support they deserve.

We need to begin asking how we can better prepare for the future of language access under COVID-19, and how changes we make now might improve our level of patient care in a post-pandemic world. This ongoing preparation is essential, because, as we’ve seen with coronavirus, major health crises disproportionately affect minority populations.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will explore ways in which language access professionals can make their departments more resilient to rapidly changing conditions to meet the needs of their LEP patients.

What we know about COVID-19 and language access

Since we don’t have a crystal ball, we can’t predict what the future of COVID-19 will look like, but we can help build a better blueprint for language access moving forward. 

How do we do that? By looking at what we’ve learned.

While scientists are still working to understand the virus, and the overall effect it will have on our healthcare system is still unclear, there are trends emerging that directly impact how we deliver care to LEP individuals:

  • First, technology in healthcare, specifically telemedicine, will continue to accelerate. 
  • Second, while health inequity existed long before the pandemic, the new reliance on telemedicine exposed the lack of preparedness some organizations had in delivering remote interpreting services.
  • Third, providing community outreach and engagement can keep diverse populations healthier and reduce strain on critical healthcare resources (and save lives in the process).

We’re here to help

We have an opportunity to apply what we know to not only strengthen our response to this current health crisis but also to strengthen our processes for supporting LEP patients afterward.

And we want to help. CLI has always been an advocate for health equity and improving the lives of non-English speakers in the U.S. by providing reliable remote interpreting services and through the relationships we’ve built with our clients and industry partners. 

We’ve had many conversations with our clients over the past few months to discuss what’s working currently in pandemic-era language access, what they’ve learned, and what needs to change. And we want to pass on this knowledge to you. That’s the reason why we started this series. 

We’ll offer actionable advice surrounding the trends touched on above: interpreting and telemedicine, shoring up language access plans, and community involvement.

We can only do this work if we, as quoted by Cheryl Pegus, MD, in Fierce Healthcare, “remember the lessons learned from our struggle to contain the virus and not return to ‘business as usual.’”  

Join us! We can make a difference because we’re all in this together.