Embracing digital healthcare in a multicultural world

It is no surprise that America is becoming increasingly racially and culturally diverse.

According to Pew Research Center's study published in 2015, as high as 14 percent of the U.S. population is foreign born, three times higher than in 1965. A striking number of 350 different tongues are spoken in the United States, and in major metropolitan areas of the country, English is actually a minority language.

Healthcare systems can compete more effectively in a multicultural society in a number of important ways. For instance, they can treat their websites as digital front doors for multicultural patient access by incorporating capabilities such as provider locators in multiple languages. How are you responding?

Rise of Digital Care

The rise of the multicultural patient overlaps with a few other important trends, such as the rise of mobile and digital as a means for patients to get care. McKinsey and Company recently published a report, stating that more than 75 percent of patients across all age group would like to use digital healthcare services.

Mobile health will continue to be on the rise, especially among the younger patients who continue to seek for health-promotion and prevention services. According to HIT Consultants, 66 percent of Americans use their mobile apps to manage health-related issues and engage with online health information. This pattern also reflects on different segments of multicultural groups -- for example, according to research by comScore, Hispanic patients visit healthcare websites twice as often as the general market. However, there is a lack of Hispanic health information or content available.

Digital Tools for Healthcare Systems

Federal law ensures all healthcare providers that receive federal funding provide languages to patients who need them. Within the past few years, we have seen a boom of mobile apps and software platforms that allow for medical translations when there are no bilingual staff or medical interpreters present. For example, New York based company Transcendent Endeavors just released a touch-screen software that lets patients click a pained face, which will then alert a nurse for help, and allow nurses to track the type and time of services requested.

Canopy, another software invented by an immigrant and entrepreneur Bill Tan, features 1,500 common medical phrases in 11 languages, according to an article published by the Atlantic in 2014. In case the conversations get complicated, doctors have the option of pushing a button on the app for phone-based interpreting assistance.

Google Translate also offers speech-based interpretation on mobile devices that attempts to translate spoken language in real time. However, it's not always grammatically accurate and should be used with caution in a healthcare setting.

These digital tools are vital to improving healthcare communication and delivery. Offering a wider range and quality of languages spoken, especially in highly multi-ethnic and multicultural metro areas, along with leveraging the digital tools available, promise to make the healthcare industry more responsive.

The Importance of the Multicultural Digital Front Door

Multiple studies have supported that language spoken is one of the deciding factors when patients look for care and services. Oftentimes, multicultural patients come into their doctor appointments wondering "Will my doctor speak my language?" For example, a Mandarin-speaking patient residing in Chicago will be more likely to pick a doctor who is close to them, and who has Mandarin as one of the languages spoken in their office.

Healthcare systems can leverage their physician directory on the website in a way that patients can further narrow their search results based on either proximity, insurance accepted, gender, and most importantly, language spoken. According to a study by Lisa Diamond (2012), Sutter Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in the West Coast, has utilized a scale of non-English language proficiency to evaluate its physicians, ranging from "basic" to "fluent." Sutter Health has used this scale since 1997 to further assist patients in the process of selecting a language-relevant clinician.

A physician directory a digital front door to a healthcare system. A highly optimized physician directory for multicultural patients should have relevant search tool functionality such as language spoken and personalized content for the unique needs of multicultural patients. Doing so will further translate into higher number of appointments scheduled and improved conversion rates.

Daisy Hoang, Sales Strategy Lead, SIM Partners

As a sales strategy lead for SIM Partners, Daisy and her team are dedicated to helping healthcare systems drive digital patient acquisition through the use of technology. The company's Velocity technology is a SaaS-based local marketing automation platform that helps healthcare systems — with hundreds to thousands of physicians and facilities — drive patient acquisition...everywhere. Since Daisy joined SIM Partners in July 2016, the company has grown to become the premiere provider of local marketing automation technology for healthcare brands.

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