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Long Island Jewish Forest Hills facilitates linguistically diverse communication

Culturally and linguistically diverse patients facing language barriers can experience poorer quality of care and patient safety due to a lack of clear, effective communication with providers. Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, NY, is Northwell Health’s most diverse hospital. A total of 164 languages and dialects are spoken there, complicating healthcare delivery to non-English speaking patients.

To address the language barrier, the hospital team promoted the use of a video-assisted interpreter tool. The VAI tool provides a video remote interpreting service through app-enabled iPads that allow nurses and other staff to communicate in real time with patients in their native language. These face-to-face interactions set a more humanistic tone during medical interventions, which can be scary in their own right, and foster the impression of the interpreter advocating for patients while in the same room.

To implement widespread use of the tool by hospital staff, the team created video skits demonstrating “right” and “wrong” customer service. Since the hospital workforce is so diverse and speaks myriad languages, they empathized with non-English speaking patients and eagerly embraced the VAI to enhance communication.

To date, usage of the VAI has increased 197.8% each month. In addition, patient and family perception of the hospital experience improved as shown in the hospital's patient satisfaction scores. Specifically, communication by nurses regarding medications improved by nearly 5% and patient understanding of the purpose of prescribed medications went up by almost 6%.

For more information, contact Alexander Thomas, project manager, at athomas74@northwell.edu or 718.925.6614.