Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) benefit from the appropriate use of medical interpreters. A multidisciplinary quality improvement team sought to improve communication with patients with LEP within a pediatric emergency department (ED). Specifically, the team aimed to improve the early identification of patients and caregivers with LEP, the utilization of interpreter services for those identified, and documentation of interpreter use in the patient chart.
Using clinical observations and data review, the project team identified key processes for improvement in the ED workflow and introduced interventions to increase identification of language needs and offer interpreter services. These include a new triage screening question, an icon on the ED track board that communicates language needs to staff, an electronic health record (EHR) alert with information on how to obtain interpreter services, and a new template to prompt correct documentation in the ED provider’s note. Outcomes were tracked using statistical process control charts.
All study measures met special cause for improvement during the 6-month study period and have been sustained during surveillance data collection. Identification rates for patients with LEP during triage increased from 60% to 77%. Interpreter utilization increased from 77% to 86%. The documentation of interpreter use increased from 38% to 73%.
Using improvement methods, a multidisciplinary team increased the identification of patients and caregivers with LEP in an ED. Integration of this information into the EHR allowed for the targeted prompting of providers to use interpreter services and to correctly document their use.