Physicians Required to Provide Interpretive Services to Non-English Speaking Patients

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Health care providers often wonder if and when they must provide interpretive services to patients who do not speak English or who are deaf or hearing impaired. Federal law mandates that health care providers take certain steps to provide interpretive services. The roots of this issue are in the physician’s need to communicate effectively with patients so that patients may make informed decisions about their health care.

Patients with Limited English Proficiency

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, or national origin in all programs that receive federal financial assistance. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a long-standing position that, in order to avoid discrimination against limited English proficiency (LEP) persons, healthcare entities receiving federal financial assistance must take adequate steps to ensure that such LEP persons receive, free of charge, the language assistance necessary to afford them meaningful access to their services.

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