What Does a Language Access Plan Look Like for Your Healthcare Organization?

 

Language access is the provision of language services for those whose primary or preferred language is one other than the language most commonly spoken in a geographic area. With the growth of diverse populations in the United States, language access in languages other than English is a vital part of many organizations and communities. This includes American Sign Language (ASL) for the Deaf community as well.

Language access is especially important in settings where communication is key to receiving essential services and information. Healthcare providers across the country have the ability to offer services and information in many languages by hiring and contracting translation and interpretation service providers specializing in healthcare and specialty areas of medicine.

A language access plan (also known as a LAP) is an important instrument in helping healthcare providers offer their services to those who do not speak English as their first or primary language.

What is a Language Access Plan?

In short, a language access plan is a document created for and used by an organization, which lays out the strategy to provide meaningful access to limited English proficient individuals (LEPs) who utilize its services. The LAP your organization adopts should be thorough and clear to everyone working within your organization. This allows everyone to be on the same page—from providers to medical students, registration and admitting clerks to call center representatives, and even food services staff and parking attendants.

A LAP is also a vital part of providing health equity to all patients — allowing LEPs the right to health and the right to ask questions if they don’t receive the services and language access they need.

Language access is especially important in settings where communication is key to receiving essential services and information. Healthcare providers across the country have the ability to offer services and information in many languages by hiring and contracting translation and interpretation service providers specializing in healthcare and specialty areas of medicine.

A language access plan (also known as a LAP) is an important instrument in helping healthcare providers offer their services to those who do not speak English as their first or primary language.

Does My Organization Have to Have a Language Access Plan?

At this time, language access plans are not required by any government or regulating body. However, the components that make up LAPs are often required.

Several federal laws and regulations require healthcare organizations to provide language access, including, but not limited to:

  • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in covered health programs and activities.
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which calls for recipients of federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to make their programs, services, and activities accessible by eligible LEPs.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits organizations and employers that receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency from excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services.

Thus, having a plan to fulfill requirements for federal funding and regulations, in addition to the desire to provide meaningful access to programs and services at your healthcare organization will help you improve programs, build trust in the community, and ensure clear communication.

What Should My Organization Include In Its Language Access Plan?

While there are several components that are essential to include in a LAP, each organization should have its own unique plan. After all, no two healthcare systems or organizations are the same.

What to include in your Language Access Plan

While the list below is not exhaustive, we recommend that you include the following items in your LAP.

  • Assessment of current services and programs
  • Needs assessment of LEP patients and families utilizing services and programs
  • Involvement of key stakeholders in your organization and community
  • Provision of translation and interpretation services to LEPs, including documentation and signage in the languages spoken by the LEP populations you serve
  • Quality improvement efforts
  • Communication of the plan to all those who will engage with LEPs within your organization

These basic components will put you well on your way to creating a language access plan that fits your organization and the patients you serve. They will also build trust in the surrounding community, as more and more patients will spread the word and return to your facilities to receive services.

Get Assistance With Your Language Access Plan

For more information about how to create and implement a strong language access plan for your organization, contact us for a free consultation.

Language access doesn’t have to be complicated.
We’re here to help you get it right.

Interested in how we can help you and your team?