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Acad Med. 2018 Jun 5. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002307. [Epub ahead of print]

Spanish Language Concordance in U.S. Medical Care: A Multifaceted Challenge and Call to Action.

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P. Ortega is assistant professor, Departments of Emergency Medicine and Medical Education, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, ORCID:


Patient-physician language discordance within the growing Spanish-speaking patient population in the United States presents a significant challenge for health systems. The Civil Rights Act, an Executive Order, and federal standards establish legal requirements regarding patients' legal right to access medical care in their language of origin and to culturally and linguistically appropriate services, and national competency standards for undergraduate and graduate medical education and licensing examinations support the importance of patient-physician communication. However, no requirements or guidelines currently exist for medical Spanish educational resources and there is no standardized process to assess the competency of medical students and physicians who use Spanish in patient care. Relatedly, existing data regarding current medical Spanish educational resources is limited, and Spanish proficiency evaluations are often based on self-assessments. Future efforts should use a multifaceted approach to address this complex challenge. A standardized process for Spanish language-concordant medical care education and quality assurance should incorporate the validation of medical Spanish educational resources, competency requirements for medical usage of Spanish, an incentivized certification process for physicians who achieve medical Spanish competency, and health system updates that include routine collection of language concordance data and designation of Hispanic-serving health centers.

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