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Hospitals, Health Clinics Use Picture Boards To Reduce Language Barriers

Armen Hareyan's picture

Hospitals, health clinics and rescue teams in a number of states havebegun to use picture boards to communicate with patients who cannotspeak English to help improve quality of care, AP/USA Today reports.

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The large, double-sided picture boards, manufactured by Florida-based Servision,allow patients to select icons to indicate their symptoms and theaffected parts of their bodies. In addition, patients can select theirnative languages from a list on the picture boards to allow medicalpersonnel to locate interpreters. The picture boards also can improvecommunication between medical personnel and patients who are deaf,mute, hearing impaired or unable to speak because of a medicalcondition.

Use of the picture boards likely will increase under a new HHSprogram that seeks to help hospitals determine the communication needsof patients and find tools to meet those needs. Hospital associationsin nine states -- New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky,Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington -- have agreed toparticipate in the program.

Fred Jacobs, director of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services,said of the picture boards, "They ought to be in every ambulance, inevery hospital, in every clinic. Communication barriers lead to adverseimpacts on (care) quality, misunderstandings and even medical errors" (AP/USA Today, 9/2).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.