Amid increased promotion and investment in Florida medical tourism, Stratus emphasizes the critical need for standardized medical interpretation services to support foreign patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).
February 9, 2015, Clearwater, FL – After receiving $5 million from the state legislature to promote medical tourism, the Visit Florida tourism marketing association recently launched a $2.5 million grant program to help businesses promote Florida as medical tourism destination (1). In light of these initiatives to capitalize on the burgeoning medical tourism market, Stratus Video Interpreting advises Florida healthcare organizations to standardize their medical interpretation services for foreign visitors with limited English proficiency (LEP). Stratus, which specializes in video remote interpreting (VRI), cautions that a lack of formal interpretation services for LEP patients can have legal and financial consequences.
According to Patients Beyond Borders, today’s global medical tourism market is worth between $38.5 and $55 billion, growing at a rate of 15% to 25% annually, and draws 11 million cross-border patients worldwide (2). While much of America’s medical tourism is outbound, with approximately 1.2 million citizens traveling outside the country for medical treatments (2), the United States is reportedly the second largest inbound medical tourism destination, with an estimated 850,000 to 1.25 million medical tourists annually (3). Florida’s beaches, theme parks and cruise ports have made it a popular destination for overseas visitors, and evidence suggests that many medical tourists are among them. One Florida healthcare organization—Miami’s Jackson Health System—estimates that it serves approximately 2,500 international patients each year and grosses an average of $78.3 million from international payments (4).
Financial incentives such as the Visit Florida grants and potential income from foreign medical tourists have led numerous healthcare organizations to begin marketing their services internationally. However, since foreign-born patients often have limited English proficiency, healthcare providers need to be mindful of the LEP compliance requirements established under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI mandates that any program receiving federal funding—including hospitals and other healthcare facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments—must ensure people with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to programs and services (5).
Despite these federal requirements, some healthcare organizations have not yet implemented standardized medical interpretation services. Those facilities may rely on unofficial interpreters that have not completed standardized training or certification, such as a patient’s family members or friends, or they may assume that a patient’s limited English skills are sufficient to understand health-related conversations. However, any organization or healthcare provider that does not comply with Title VI requirements can be investigated for discrimination against LEP patients, and may be subject to fines and other noncompliance penalties.
In addition, organizations that do not provide access to qualified healthcare interpreters risk jeopardizing their patients’ health and safety. Numerous studies have shown that professional interpretation services resulted in a significantly lower percentage of medical errors than ad-hoc interpreters or no interpreters (6), thereby helping to avoid potentially life-threatening mistakes and malpractice lawsuits.
“The medical tourism industry is clearly growing in popularity and financial potential; and as a Florida-based business, we recognize the value it offers to patients and our state economy,” said Sean Belanger, CEO of Stratus Video Interpreting. “While we fully support the promotion of Florida medical tourism, I think it’s important for healthcare organizations to first ensure they have standardized medical interpretation services in place. This not only protects LEP patients, but it also protects the facility from potential discrimination complaints and noncompliance penalties.”
Belanger notes that budgetary and staffing limitations are no longer a barrier to providing equal language access, since on-demand video interpretation services allow organizations to connect to qualified medical interpreters as and when needed. Stratus offers video remote interpreting (VRI) services in more than 175 spoken and signed languages, and clients only pay for the actual minutes used.
To learn more about Stratus and its medical interpretation services for patients with limited English proficiency, visit http://www.stratusvideo.com.
About Stratus Video Interpreting
Stratus Video Interpreting provides on-demand interpreter services by using technology to connect clients with interpreters in over 175 spoken and signed languages in less than 30 seconds. Stratus’ cloud-based video solution delivers an array of unique features to virtually any Internet-enabled PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. Stratus clients use the technology to connect with their own staff interpreters, as well as with Stratus interpreters, who have years of healthcare and courtroom experience and hold multiple certifications. With Stratus, state-of-the-art video remote interpreting is made available with virtually no capital investment. Stratus averages 65,000 video calls a day, up from 40,000 in mid-2013. Stratus Video is the sister company of The Z® (CSDVRS, LLC, dba ZVRS), which was established in 2006 and developed by and for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, setting the industry standard as the nation’s premier Video Relay Service Provider and the first VRS Provider to receive a 5-year certification from the FCC. In 2014, Stratus was recognized as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies, ranking #3,827 on Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list. For more information, visit http://www.stratusvideo.com.
1. Satchell, Arlene. “Visit Florida Offers $2.5M in Medical Tourism Grants”; Sun Sentinel; November 11, 2014. sun-sentinel.com/business/tourism/fl-florida-medical-tourism-grant-20141111-story.html
2. Mitchell, John W. “Medical Tourism: Health Care Disrupter or Fringe Service?”; DOTmed HealthCare Business News; January 2015. dotmed.com/news/story/24812
3. “Medical Tourism Statistics & Facts”; Patients Beyond Borders website; last updated July 6, 2014. patientsbeyondborders.com/medical-tourism-statistics-facts
4. McGrory, Kathleen. “Lawmakers Seek to Draw Medical Tourists to Florida”; Miami Herald; April 6, 2014. miamiherald.com/news/business/article1962450.html
5. National Health Law Program. Federal Laws and Policies to Ensure Access to Health Care Services for People With Limited English Proficiency; July 1, 2009; PDF file. healthlaw.org/publications/federal-laws-and-policies-to-ensure-access-to-health-care-services-for-people-with-limited-english-proficiency
6. Flores, Glenn; Abreu, Milagros; et al. “Errors of Medical Interpretation and Their Potential Clinical Consequences: A Comparison of Professional Versus Ad Hoc Versus No Interpreters”; Annals of Emergency Medicine; November 2012. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22424655
Karla Jo Helms
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