August 31, 2021

4 Ways Language Barriers are Affecting America’s Healthcare

25 million U.S. residents would consider themselves to be English language learners – yet studies show that patients and families with limited English proficiency receive a fraction of the communication that English-speaking families receive from their healthcare team. These language and communication barriers can contribute to misunderstandings between patients and providers, obstacles to high-quality care, and above all, negative clinical outcomes.

In an effort to break down barriers to communication in crucial healthcare situations, Pocketalk has become the very first HIPAA-compliant handheld translation device. After seeing a need for translation on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pocketalk was inspired to focus its efforts on connecting patients with their healthcare providers and serving as a critical tool for medical professionals and first responders, arming them with quick, accurate translations in the field when it mattered most.

In a healthcare setting, Pocketalk innovation and tech yields an extraordinary experience for patients, tremendous cost savings for healthcare providers, and reduces reliance on costly third-party translation services. Keep reading to learn four ways that language barriers are affecting America’s healthcare, and how Pocketalk can help.


Language barriers in healthcare can lead to miscommunication between the medical professional and patient resulting in drastically reduced satisfaction, healthcare quality, and patient safety. With Pocketalk now HIPAA-compliant and ready to be used in clinical settings, caregivers and patients have the ability to speak directly and instantaneously. This elevated communication will deepen patient and caregiver rapport, leading to an extraordinary experience for patients, greater comprehension of diagnosis and treatments, and most importantly, lower rates of readmission.


Lower Use of Care

Language barriers significantly limit access to healthcare for U.S. residents with limited English proficiency. In fact, English second-language speakers receive approximately one-third less care than other Americans, even with differences in baseline health, age, income, and health insurance taken into account. To that end, primarily Spanish speakers account for 13% of the U.S. population, yet tend to utilize the American healthcare system at a 42% lower rate than other Americans.


According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “the gaps in care that we observed could be a result of several factors rooted in language-based inequities. Non-English speakers may be less likely to seek care for health concerns, anticipating that their needs might not be met. Patients with limited English proficiency, for example, may have had prior negative experiences with the health care system, including being made to feel unwelcome or discriminated against.”


Interpreters Are Not Always An Option

A qualitative study found that clinicians’ choice of whether to use professional interpreting services depends on time constraints, subjective preferences, and therapeutic objectives. Even when professional interpreting is utilized appropriately for informed consent discussions, care conferences, and daily updates, patients and families with limited English proficiency still receive a fraction of the communication that English-speaking families receive from their healthcare team.

The clarity, speed, and convenience offered by Pocketalk cannot be replicated by translation lines or interpretive services. These existing systems of translation come with long wait times and can cost healthcare providers up to hundreds of dollars per hour. Pocketalk has the ability to dramatically reduce non-medical costs in translation and interpretive services, and offers immediate communication that will eliminate wait times and dependency on other bilingual coworkers. With a combination of speed and direct communication, Pocketalk minimizes scheduling requirements, reduces stress, and ultimately gets patients the care they need to move on to the next phase of treatment.

Lack of HIPAA-Certified Devices

There are currently no other HIPAA-compliant handheld translation devices on the market to help address provider and patient needs, and technology is often limited due to facility offerings and-or budget constraints. This lack of proper translation accessibility often results in miscommunication, uninformed consent discussions, and a strain on day-to-day conversations with patients.


The pandemic highlighted just how valuable Pocketalk is in the healthcare space. With the device now ready to be used in clinical settings, Pocketalk will break down barriers between healthcare providers and patients when it matters most, lighten the burden on human interpreters and allow for more relationship-building opportunities with all patients. As the world’s first HIPAA-compliant handheld translation device, Pocketalk technology is a major step forward in the healthcare industry and will help send the message that all are welcome.

For more information on Pocketalk’s HIPAA compliance, visit the online newsroom and follow Pocketalk on Instagram and Facebook.