An often repeated saying in health care goes that patients lose about 80% of the information they heard during a doctor’s appointment by the time they reach the parking lot. It emphasizes that patients aren’t able to put followup care instructions into practice when they either forget or don’t comprehend what was said during a visit. Whatever the actual percentage might be, a guaranteed way to ensure that patients take home 0% of that information is to talk to them in a language they don’t understand.
Twenty percent of the United States population reported that they speak a language other than English at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many health care workers see limited English proficient patients every day, and within Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Patient-Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs) it will be up to these workers to make sure that patients have the best health outcomes, no matter how high the language barriers are.
Today HealthEd Academy released the results of a survey that looked at the way non-MD health care professionals interact with their patients from multicultural backgrounds. The report examined responses from a survey of 192 health care extenders, which included nurses, social workers, pharmacists, patient educators, and more. One in five of those surveyed were part of an ACO or PCMH.
The respondents reported working with a huge array of languages. They were asked to name the most common languages spoken by their patient populations, and four out of 10 checked “other,” despite being able to choose from 10 languages identified by the Census Bureau as the most commonly spoken. Among the languages respondents wrote in were Arabic, Yiddish, several Indian/Pakistani languages, and sign language.
This year at Health 2.0′s Annual Conference, two speakers split stage time during the opening keynote. Joe Flower, a health futurist, and Mark Bertolini, CEO of health insurer Aetna, don’t have a whole lot in common professionally. But in their talks they both made clear that they hold two beliefs in common: the United States health care system needs to react to the country’s cost crisis, and efforts to address health care costs will happen independently from federal reform.
Flower spoke first, laying out the tenets of what he calls the Next Health Care. For such an optimistic speech, it was filled with negatives. Flower went through step by step, talking about what the nation isn’t doing right now, who’s not invested in better care, and why all health care systems can’t just become Kaisers.
Though the talk certainly wasn’t meant to praise health care for all it does right, it was meant to point out the promise that the health care system could be on the brink of.
“Health care is undergoing fundamental economic changes,” Flower said. “These changes are driving us to what may well be better and cheaper health care for everyone.”
The Affordable Care Act isn’t what’s propelling those changes, according to Flower. It’s other factors including an aging population, the sheer cost of care in the U.S., and technological capability that we’ve never seen until now.
Chronic disease accounts for 70 to 75% of all health care costs, Flower said. And as many Americans know, obesity is a huge contributor to those costs. The maps looked at the projection of obesity rates in the U.S. over time, and as the slides passed it looked like the country was being eaten by the disease.
“Now, some of the best hopes for that future, honestly, we see right here at Health 2.0. But we are not there yet,” Flower said.