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Forum Category: Practice Administration

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How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

A survey released by the United States Census Bureau revealed that more than 60 million Americans five years and older spoke a language other than English at home. Unsurprisingly, more than half of these individuals speak Spanish. Other popular languages included Chinese (Mandarin), Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, German, and Korean.

We know that nearly all colleges in the United States mandate that some sort of foreign language requirements be met for graduation; usually at least 2 years worth. We also know that no dental school has such a requirement, and that students have a tendency to forget their acquired languages after they are no longer being graded on them.

The question is: how are you as a dental professional going to handle patients in your office who may not speak English as a primary language, or at all?

Being the only practice in town that has a plan to cater to this growing demographic could be what sets your office apart from others, and ultimately makes you successful. Things to think about include:

  • Staffing; would you require your office staff to be multi-lingual?
  • Marketing; how could you spread the word that your office can accommodate non-English speaking patients?
  • And Special Accommodations; what “little things” could you do in your office that make non-English speaking patients feel comfortable?

Share some of your best suggestions with your peers in the comments section below!

Community Rating:
Your Rating?

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

08:31 PM | Feb 20,2017
With two parents in the medical field and hearing countless stories of young children having to translate vital medical information to their non English speaking parents, this topic has always been one that has been at the front of my mind. With the growing demographic of today's communities I feel that it is vital to a successful practice to have a strategy in place for these situations. Ideally it would be great if the dental provider themselves or even an assistant were able to translate, but there is a multitude of languages spoken in the United States and you would not be able to cover all of them in this fashion. Secondly, it would be great to be able to have a live translator, but this can get very costly. I have seen some off site translators used and I think this is a fairly good resource. They offer any language imaginable and the interpreters have always been very polite. I believe this could be a very safe and successful option for any practice to use. No matter what option your practice chooses, I think the most important thing is to have a plan and be able to utilize it quickly and effectively.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

06:19 PM | Dec 04,2016
Beyond having a bilingual staff and marketing in languages other than English, I have found that I am able to make non-English speaking patients feel more comfortable by speaking their language, no matter how little it be. I have a lot of Spanish speaking patients, many that also speak English. I have asked many of those patients to only speak Spanish with me and when we hit a roadblock, we'll temporarily switch to English and they'll tell me how to say whatever it is in Spanish. This has improved my Spanish infinitely and allowed me to better communicate with my only Spanish speaking patients, who many of have commented on my Spanish improving! GoogleTranslate has also been a great resource.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

01:56 PM | Jun 24,2016
If there is a certain demographic which has a higher population of a certain language then I would highly consider having staff who are able to translate and communicate if I am not fluent in that language. However I don't think it can or should be a requirement of a staff member. Additionally, if there is a significant language barrier where obtaining patient compliance would be at question, it is important as a provider to know that you cannot safely treat the patient if they cannot fully understand the circumstances. In that case, I think it would be useful to have connections with other dentists in the area who speak different languages than your office. That way, you have a referral, and the patient does not think that you just don't want to treat them. It is impossible for dentist to know every language, so just knowing your limits is important. Additionally, office staff should be trained to speak with a patient and explain over the phone that they will need to bring a translator if they cannot speak english or the languages of the office, that way they are prepared.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

08:05 PM | Feb 29,2016
There are over 6,000 languages in the world, and according to the 2011 Census, 381 detailed languages are spoken in the USA. This makes it very hard to have someone proficient at every single one in your office. Therefore, before buying or opening a practice, you should pay close attention to market research of the surrounding area, and cater your services to that population. It is not just about the spoken language, you should also acknowledge and respect the cultural differences. I would not hire staff solely based on being multilingual, but having someone able to interpret in the office would be of great help. It is important to understand that the translator should be knowledgeable of the patient’s culture to be able to be a proficient interpreter. Also, the interpreter should be knowledgeable of the medical and dental terminology to be able to properly explain the procedures to the patient. They should also be HIPAA compliant and respect the patient’s privacy. If there is a large population of Spanish speaker, for example, I would make sure to have advertisement targeting this population. Also, all the patient forms should be properly translated. It would also be recommended that the dentists and the rest of the staff take Spanish classes to become as proficient as possible. The patients will appreciate the extra effort!

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

10:31 PM | Feb 21,2016
Because the U.S. has such deep roots in diversity and multiculturalism, I think it’s only inevitable we’ll be faced with situations that force us to display more cultural competency. One way to address this issue would be hiring bilingual employees who can communicate with non-English-speaking patients. This could be a receptionist or dental hygienist, even a fellow partner. Advertising and marketing play a huge role in attracting new patients so multilingual ads would also be useful. In terms of the practice itself, small things in the waiting room could add to patient comfort as well – perhaps magazines in different languages or various international TV channels. America’s “melting pot” culture is here to stay and as healthcare providers, it’s important we make an effort to reach out to those diverse patient populations.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

10:51 PM | Jan 03,2016
I would like to commend your desire to incorporate other languages into your practices. It is vital that as America is becoming more of a "melting pot" of ethnicities, that we continually grow and adapt to accommodate the ever changing population at hand. Currently, in our clinic we are utilizing a resource called "Stratus". Although I am not an advocate for this system, I would like to speak highly of it. With more languages than I knew existed, it is easy to get an interpreter on the other end of an iPad with the click of a button. The interpreters are very helpful and polite. A face-to-face interpreter would be ideal in most situations, however, the expense isn't manageable. I would like others to consider using an internet communication device in the future.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

01:19 AM | Dec 10,2015
This topic is definitely something I find myself struggling with during clinic. I have many Spanish speaking patients and it has been really difficult for me to effectively communicate with them. Fortunately, I have many spanish speaking faculty and fellow students that can help me with these patients. However, I have realized that this is a big issue I will need to face when I open my own practice someday. Currently, I am teaching my self Spanish in my spare time, but there are a couple of things I have considered when opening my own practice someday. I think it would be best to hire at least one or two staff members who can effectively communicate in Spanish. I have also thought about teaming up with a translator service. I think it is also important to provide paperwork in both Spanish and English. These are just some of things that I have thought about, but I'm sure there are many more!

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

09:05 AM | Mar 08,2015
In order to accommodate non-English speaking patients I would definitely require my office to have at least one bilingual assistant and one bilingual receptionist on schedule at all times. In addition I will have all forms and information pamphlets available in at least English and Spanish since the Spanish speaking population is one of the most rapidly growing patient populations. In order to advertise my bilingual practice I would use social media and post flyers in the Spanish speaking community centers, churches, etc. furthermore i myself plan to learn Spanish at least to a point where I can communicate in the dental office. I do think this is a very important topic because language barriers can be very difficult to overcome between doctor and patient without the correct resources and preparation. As a result patients go where they feel comfortable so business can ultimately depend on it in some locations.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

10:58 AM | Sep 30,2014
It is extremely important that wherever a dentist practice, they are able to communicate with the population they are serving. The United States in a diverse melting pot and when we go out into the world as practicing dentist we will have patients from all walks of life that speak multiple languages. So as practitioners we must accommodate our patients and do so with our staff. marketing and office setting. I am not sure if I would require all staff members to be multi-lingual but it would be favorable to have a few that are. I would like to have staff members that are able to communicate clearly with our patient population. I believe the best way to market for non-english speakers is to market in their language. Based on where an office is located i is usually easy to tell the demographic of that area. Similar groups of people who speak the same language tend to live close to one another. So if my office is located by a predominately hispanic area, I will have ad translations in Spanish. This shows the potential patient that the office does cater to that population. As long as I have staff that are able to clearly translate, the only special accommodation I would have is having the paper work in our patient population's language. Besides that I would just make sure I have a nice comfortable office, with a warm and friendly staff that would make anyone comfortable.

How will you differentiate your practice for non-English speaking patients?

03:22 PM | Sep 28,2014
I think that this issue is imperative to address as it is already surfacing for many of us in dental school. As a third year just starting clinic, I have found my background in Spanish to be extremely helpful. In my undergraduate studies, I majored in biology with a biomedical concentration, biochemistry, and Spanish and minored in art. I obviously have an interest in science since I decided to go into dental school, but I also have a passion for Spanish and painting, both of which have served me very well so far in dental school. I have always enjoyed the Spanish language and culture and really wanted to be able to provide dental care to the Hispanic population once I graduated dental school. I had no idea how my knowledge of another language would potentially translate to a business gain not only in my future office but also as a student. The mere fact that there are very few of us in my class that speak Spanish opens up countless opportunities and patients for us. If I didn't have the Spanish background, I believe that I would hire at least one individual that speaks another language or have monthly workshops where we learned words and phrases that apply to dentistry. I think that in today's world, we have such a blended culture that it is imperative to acknowledge, address and cater to each individual, including speaking their language, even if it is fairly limited. When an office does speak additional languages, it truly sets them apart and makes patients feel at ease. Because I haven't been practicing my Spanish on a daily basis since my undergraduate studies, I am definitely rusty, but even so, patients are very appreciative and gracious for my attempt, even if it is a bit choppy. Just put yourself in their position. If you were in Mexico or France or Germany and needed medical or dental care-- how would you feel? Wouldn't you appreciate it if a provider spoke English, even if it wasn't fluent?