Monday, February 15, 2010

Language and Cultural Barriers Hurting Patient Care, Say Physicians

by Joe Cantlupe

Nearly half of U.S. physicians say language or other cultural barriers are obstacles to providing high-quality patient care, according to a study released by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Forty-eight percent of all physicians in 2008 reported difficulties communicating with patients because of language or cultural barriers, and said they considered the situation at least a minor problem affecting their ability to provide high-quality care.

Less than 5%, however, viewed those barriers as a major problem that could result in a disparity of care across ethnic and racial populations, the study reported. Efforts to overcome the obstacles were considered modest or uneven.

The study, HSC Issue Brief–Modest and Uneven: Physician Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities shows there is a great need to address the problem of language and cultural communication as the U.S. becomes more diversified, says James D. Reschovsky, PhD, senior health researcher for the Center for Studying Health System Change and co-author of the study. The study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, includes responses from more than 4,700 physicians and the response rate was 62%.

The issue takes on more urgency in the U.S. because an ever-increasing number of people speak a language other than English at home, according to Reschovsky.
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