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Articles, Reports & Resources

Promoting Appropriate Use of Physicians' Non-English Language Skills in Clinical Care

Communication problems are a key driver of health care disparities. In particular, more than 25 million U.S. residents have limited English proficiency (LEP) and are at risk for language-related miscommunication. Research shows these patients experience more difficulty understanding their treatment plans, are less likely to take their medications correctly, and suffer more medical errors in their care.

Many physicians speak one or more languages other than English, and studies show that patients with LEP who receive care from a bilingual physician have better adherence, lower emergency department use, and higher satisfaction with care. Yet, physicians are extremely heterogeneous in their non-English language skills, ranging from those who speak "a little" of a second language based on high school classes or travel to those who received their medical training in a non-English language. There is little detailed guidance for physicians on the most appropriate ways to use their non-English language skills.

This new report from the Commission to End Health Care Disparities explores these complex issues and provides practical guidance to clinicians, care delivery organizations, and health care systems. It also provides a framework for future research on how physicians can best use their non-English language skills to provide safe, high quality care for patients with LEP.


Ferguson, Warren J. (April 2009).
Un Poquito

Jha, Ashish K.; Orav, John E.; Zheng, Jie; Epstein, Arnold M. (April 2009).
The Characteristics And Performance Of Hospitals That Care For Elderly Hispanic Americans

Reschovsky, James D.; O’Malley, Ann S. (April 2009).
Do Primary Care Physicians Treating Minority Patients Report Problems Delivering High-Quality Care?

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (April 2009).
Talking to Latinos About Diabetes Using Words They Understand

Wu, Shinyi, PhD; Ridgely, M. Susan, JD; Escarce, José J., MD, PhD; Morales, Leo S., MD, PhD. (April 2009).
Language Access Services for Latinos with Limited English Proficiency: Lessons Learned from Hablamos Juntos

Reports and resources

CEHCD Fiscal Report 3rd Quarter 2012

2014 - 2016 Strategic Plan

Physician Interview Project video

Collecting and Using Race, Ethnicity and Language Data in Ambulatory Settings

CEHCD Summary Report of Archived Educational Resources

Health Care Reform Letter to President Obama

Addressing Health Care Disparities: Recommended Goal, Guiding Principles and Key Strategies for Comprehensive Policies

Commission to End Health Care Disparities Five Year Summary Report

Quality Health Care for Minorities: Understanding Physicians' Experiences

Development of a Measure of Physician Engagement in Addressing Racial and Ethnic Health Care Disparities

Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care

State of the Sciences Conference 2011: Diabetes in Asian Americans, Native Hawai'ins & Pacific Islanders - A Call to Action

Immigration Reform as a Means to Eliminate Health Care Disparities
A position paper by the National Council for Asian Pacific Islander Physicians

International medical graduates in American medicine: Contemporary challenges and opportunities
A position paper by the AMA-IMG Section Governing Council

Reducing Health Disparities: Where Are We Now?