May 4 (UPI) -- Research shows a vulnerability gap for patients with limited English proficiency receiving home healthcare, which could affect treatment outcomes negatively.
One in every five U.S. households speaks a language other than English at home. As English language proficiency decreases so do positive healthcare outcomes.
Studies have shown that limited English proficiency, or LEP, patients are at an increased risk of 30-day readmissions, longer stays in inpatient and emergency room settings, and adverse events.
Researchers at New York University found the adverse effects of language barriers are most pervasive in home healthcare settings where interpreter services are often limited and inconsistent, making communication between nurses and patients more difficult.
"The lack of research about the impact of language barriers on patient outcomes in home healthcare represents a point of vulnerability for LEP patients as they transition through the healthcare system," Dr. Allison Squires, a researcher at NYU's Rory Meyers College of Nursing, said in a press release.
"In the study, we explored the potential vulnerability in home healthcare service delivery by examining the frequency of language-concordant visit patterns among home health patients using electronic health records and organizational administrative datasets."
Researchers examined home healthcare visits by registered nurses and physical therapists where the providers spoke the same language as the patient or had an interpreter accompany them to the visit. The study used data from home healthcare services in the New York City area and included immigrant demographics such as English, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Korean, Russian, Patois, Spanish and Yiddish among others.
Researchers found only 18.1 percent of nurse visits and 26.7 percent of physical therapist visits with LEP patients were language concordant, meaning the provider spoke the same language or had an interpreter.
"A failure to adequately respond to demand for language-concordant services could, for example, be a reflection of how staff deliver and organize care or an organization's operational philosophy around addressing health disparities in the populations they serve," Squires said. "More research is needed to determine the right 'dose' of bilingual home care visits to optimize home care outcomes and establish a standard for care."
The study was published in Home Health Care Management and Practice.