Language-Based Inequity in Health Care: Who Is the “Poor Historian”?
AMA Journal of Ethics, March 2017
Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) are among the most vulnerable populations. They experience high rates of medical errors with worse clinical outcomes than English-proficient patients and receive lower quality of care by other metrics. However, we have yet to take the issue of linguistic inequities seriously in the medical system and in medical education, tacitly accepting that substandard care is either unavoidable or not worth the cost to address. We argue that we have a moral imperative to provide high-quality care to patients with LEP and to teach our medical trainees that such care is both expected and feasible. Ultimately, to achieve linguistic equity will require creating effective systems for medical interpretation and a major culture shift not unlike what has happened in patient safety.
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