The Importance of Language Access to Telehealth Utilization
Telemedicine dominates the news about healthcare these days. It has the potential to change so much about how we regularly interact with healthcare providers in this country.
Telehealth services promise to provide affordable, accessible care in rural regions; help diagnose concussions on the football field; and assist providers in monitoring stroke patients from the comfort of their homes.
The expansion of telehealth is gaining ground, but some barriers to wide implementation still exist, including one roadblock significant to healthcare in general.
Impediments to Telehealth
Several factors currently impede the growth of telehealth in America.
- Telehealth regulations differ widely from state to state.
- Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement protocol for telemedicine is complex and restrictive.
- Limited access to high-speed broadband internet curbs the use of telemedicine in rural areas.
Yet these are short-term concerns. As telehealth services expand and develop in the U.S., regulations will open up as more consumers demand access to service. The reach of broadband will increase. Medicaid and Medicare will standardize reimbursement.
Language access will always be important to providing any form of healthcare in America.
Video remote interpreting provides a solution that can be integrated into any telehealth system. Video remote interpreters can be accessed on-demand by remote healthcare workers, and can help ensure patients feel confident about the care they receive.
The Importance of Interpreters to Telehealth
1 in 5 Americans speak a language other than English at home, a fact that immediately illuminates the importance of language access in healthcare. It’s why the Affordable Care Act mandates that healthcare organizations provide language access services.
Latinos make up the largest minority in America, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), more than 16 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. speak English less than very well. More than 3 million Latinos live in rural areas of the country, and if telemedicine is poised to help Americans in rural communities, interpreters will be crucial in reaching many of them.
If telemedicine aims to provide convenient healthcare on-demand, it must integrate language access in order to be accessible to all.