The dread Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO, universally pronounced Jayco [hey, Brett Favre is Brett Farv]) has announced a new standard:
New Requirement for Language, Communication NeedsEffective January 1, 2006 revisions made to Information Management standard IM.6.20 require hospitals to collect information about the language and communications needs of patients. Specifically, the standard requires that each medical record contain, as applicable, the patient's language and communications needs, in addition to the patient's name, gender, address, date of birth and authorized representative, if any. This new requirement underwent field review and input was provided by the Hospital Professional and Technical Advisory Committee. Research shows that differences in language and culture can have major impacts on the quality and safety of care and those disparities in health services outcomes are associated with race, ethnicity and language. For more information, contact Amy Wilson at the Joint Commission, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, that would seem to be a sensible idea. It never occured to anyone until 2006 that providers should indicate somewhere in the medical record that a person doesn't speak English, and needs an interpreter or a provider who speaks his or her language? 100 years late or not, this is still a win.
Another innovation at JCAHO is the Hospitals, Language and Culture Project, which will end in June of this year. The project is studying a sample of hospitals to assess their ablity to deliver culturally competent services. And oh yeah -- JCAHO even has standards of cultural competency. Who woulda thunk it?