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Health Serv Res. 2012 Feb;47(1 Pt 2):556-69. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01338.x. Epub 2011 Oct 27.

"Does this doctor speak my language?" Improving the characterization of physician non-English language skills.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service, 641 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA. diamondl@mskcc.org

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To describe the initial impact of an organizational policy change on measurement of physician non-English language proficiency.

STUDY SETTING:

Multispecialty health care organization in the San Francisco Bay Area.

STUDY DESIGN/DATA COLLECTION:

In response to preliminary findings suggesting that the organization's nonvalidated and undefined three-category tool for physician self-report of non-English language proficiency levels was likely inadequate, the organization asked physicians to rate their non-English language proficiency levels using an adapted Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale, a validated measure with five rating levels and descriptors. We then compared the self-reported language proficiency on the original scale and the ILR for those physicians who completed both and used regression analysis to investigate physician characteristics potentially associated with a change in score on the old versus ILR scales.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Six months after the ILR scale was implemented throughout the organization, 75 percent (258/342) of physicians had updated their language proficiency ratings. Among clinicians who had previously rated themselves in the "Medical/Conversational" category, there were substantial variations in scores using the ILR scale. Physicians who spoke two or more non-English languages were significantly more likely to lower their self-reported proficiency when updating from the old scale to the ILR scale.

CONCLUSIONS:

The organization was willing to adopt a relatively straightforward change in how data were collected and presented to patients based on the face validity of initial findings. This organizational policy change appeared to improve how self-reported physician language proficiency was characterized.

PMID:
22091825
PMCID:
PMC3393012
DOI:
10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01338.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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