With over 50 million Spanish speakers, the United States now has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, after Mexico. While many Spanish speakers also speak English, only half self-identify as speaking English “very well”. These numbers are hard to ignore, as is their impact on the delivery of healthcare in primary care settings.

Studies have shown that a lack of proficiency in English affects many Hispanic people’s ability to seek and obtain healthcare. Language barriers result in a lack of understanding of provider instructions, decreased use of primary care, increased use of the emergency department, and inadequate follow-up after receiving care. Hispanic patients are 18% less likely than other patients to receive regular care through a medical home. While other factors are at play, including lack of health insurance and cultural differences, language is frequently cited as a major barrier to access.

If you work in a community with a significant Spanish-speaking population, it is worth thinking about ways to improve access to your practice. Telephone triage represents a significant opportunity to improve communication with your patients. By providing a service where patients feel comfortable reaching out to their primary care provider with questions, practices can build lasting relationships while improving the quality of care, increasing office visits, and decreasing unnecessary ER visits.

To support practices and clinics with Spanish-speaking patients, ClearTriage is pleased to offer after-call handouts in Spanish. These handouts provide educational information, home care instructions, and reasons why the patient should call back. They can be sent to the caller by email, text message, or through your own secure patient portal. Sending a handout at the end of a triage call — especially in the patient’s primary language — helps to reassure and educate the patient, decrease call times, improve compliance with the plan of care, and improve patient satisfaction.

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ClearTriage is a web-based clinical decision support tool for telephone triage nurses. Providing the latest version of the Schmitt-Thompson protocols, ClearTriage makes it simple to use the right protocol and create standardized documentation for every triage call in any electronic medical record system.

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