Patient Education for Diverse Cultures

Every day, no matter how rural of an area you live in, you probably run into at least one person of a different cultural background. In our healthcare system, it’s even more common, as we all need the same types of care. But serving these other cultures as a healthcare provider may come with considerations in regard to patient education that haven’t crossed our minds yet.

ESL or Another Language

Not everyone you encounter in a medical facility will speak English well—if at all. In some areas, this can present an issue not only in getting the patient and his or her family to understand the diagnosis and treatment options, but also when it comes time to receive payment. The ability to communicate clearly with a patient is important for collecting accurate information, and a misunderstanding can have serious consequences.

If your medical facility sees a significant number of patients who don’t speak English well, an interpreter can help bridge gaps in understanding along the whole continuum of care. An intricate knowledge of both languages is very important to make sure they understand the treatment they’re about to receive, and what they are responsible for (financially and otherwise) after they leave the facility.

If your patients speak limited English or English as a second language, clarity and simplicity are important. Avoid using slang or jargon that might be misinterpreted.

Another alternative is to have brochures and educational materials printed in the most common second language to help explain medical terms and financial responsibilities.

Culture & View of Healthcare

Many cultures define health and view healthcare differently. Depending on the time someone has spent in the US, they may not be completely familiar with our healthcare system. Patients may deny treatment based on their culture or religion, or may object to their diagnosis entirely. Extended family may play a significant role in their treatment. Any of these situations can cause confusion when it comes to treatment or payment.

For example, if a patient rejects their diagnosis or refuses treatment, they may not understand that they are still responsible for paying for the visit. Further, discussing finances in a very public environment may be very taboo to them. Without diverting from your course of action, try to be conscious of their cultural differences. The more comfortable and satisfied they feel with your hospital, the more likely they are to pay for the services rendered on time.

It may also be part of the patient’s culture to barter on price. While your prices are obviously fixed, this is an opportunity to “negotiate” with payment plans or early pay discounts. The patient’s culture is respected, and your revenue cycle is closed faster.


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