In a clear sign of the nation’s growing diversity, more than 50 languages other than English are commonly used in daily encounters between patients and healthcare providers in the United States, according to the 2021 Healthcare World Languages Index compiled by AMN Languages Services, a division of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AMN).
The new report is based on more than 110 million minutes of interpretation services the company provided over the last 12 months for patients in hospitals, medical groups, and other clinical settings.
“The pattern is clear,” said Maureen Huber, President of AMN Healthcare Workforce Technology Solutions. “From Mandarin to Arabic to Swahili to Hmong, and many others, patients in U.S. healthcare facilities are speaking a broader array of languages than ever before.”
According to the report, the top ten most common languages nationally in healthcare encounters requiring interpretation are Spanish, languages commonly spoken in China (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Arabic, American Sign Language (ASL), Russian, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Korean.
By far the most frequently used language other than English, Spanish is spoken in 74% of non-English patient-healthcare provider encounters nationally. Hawaii (Mandarin), Vermont (Nepali) and Maine (Arabic) are the only three states in which Spanish is not the most spoken language other than English. Vietnamese is the second most spoken language, but when Mandarin and Cantonese are combined, the languages commonly spoken in China represent the second most spoken language other than English.
A Growing LEP Population
Huber noted recent U.S. Census Bureau data indicating that 67 million people in the United States now speak a language other than English at home – a number that has doubled since 1990 and tripled since 1980. This trend has resulted in a growing number of LEP patients – healthcare consumers with Limited English Proficiency who require interpretation services to ensure appropriate care. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), language barriers put 9% of U.S. patients at risk for an adverse safety event. To ensure equal access to healthcare, Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires that interpretation services be provided to LEP patients at facilities that benefit from federal funding.
Top Languages by State
In addition to listing the top languages spoken in healthcare encounters nationally, the report identifies the top ten languages other than English spoken in healthcare encounters by state. Findings from the report for top ten languages show:
- 47 states include Mandarin
- 47 states include Arabic
- 38 states include Vietnamese
- 26 states include a sub-Saharan language
- 26 states include Russian
- 24 states include Korean
Underscoring America’s status as a land of asylum, many of the top languages originate in countries that have experienced violence or turmoil, including Vietnam, Somalia, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Haiti.
The report indicates that the use of American Sign Language (ASL) in healthcare encounters is relatively common. ASL ranked second behind Spanish as the most commonly used language other than English in 13 states and the District of Columbia. According to the Communication Services for the Deaf, a global organization providing resources and technologies for the deaf and hard of hearing community, approximately 1 million people in the United States now use ASL as their primary way to communicate.
A copy of AMN Healthcare’s 2021 Healthcare World Language Index may be obtained at https://www.amnhealthcare.com/2021-healthcare-world-language-index/.
About AMN Healthcare
AMN Healthcare is the leader and innovator in total talent solutions for healthcare organizations across the nation. The Company provides access to the most comprehensive network of quality healthcare professionals through its innovative recruitment strategies and breadth of career opportunities. With insights and expertise, AMN Healthcare helps providers optimize their workforce to successfully reduce complexity, increase efficiency and improve patient outcomes. AMN total talent solutions include managed services programs, clinical and interim healthcare leaders, temporary staffing, executive search solutions, vendor management systems, recruitment process outsourcing, predictive modeling, language interpretation services, revenue cycle solutions, credentialing and other services. Clients include acute-care hospitals, community health centers and clinics, physician practice groups, retail and urgent care centers, home health facilities, schools and many other healthcare settings. AMN Healthcare is committed to fostering and maintaining a diverse team that reflects the communities we serve. Our commitment to the inclusion of many different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives enables our innovation and leadership in the healthcare services industry. For more information about AMN Healthcare, visit www.amnhealthcare.com.
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