What's Your Multilingual Online Strategy?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media , March 21, 2012

Communities Evolve; Keep Up
HHC continually reviews its top 11 most common patient languages and is constantly on the lookout for any demographic shifts that would require strategic communication adjustments. Regardless of the languages used, the translation challenges remain constant.

"The biggest challenge is making sure you have the right translation and expert resources to have not just linguistically accurate, but also culturally competent communications," Marengo says.

For a hospital just looking to provide multilingual communications to patients, Marengo recommends they begin by capturing data about preferred patient languages and acquiring translation services to help patients navigate their healthcare process.

"Then they should do all they can to let patients know the hospital speaks their language through a wide array of multi language materials, from basic patient rights and proper signage, to health education materials and advertising campaigns," she says.

Cultural Competency is Important
And, perhaps most importantly, always keep cultural competency in mind. Something that is relevant to English-speaking patients may not make sense to another group. It may even be disrespectful or offensive.

"It's really important to remember that not all clever ad copy in English easily translates into other languages," Marengo says. "Advertising campaigns must be considered from a language as well as cultural sensitivity perspective.

With a little creativity, thoughtfulness, and cyber elbow grease, patients of all backgrounds and language preferences should be able to seamlessly navigate your hospital, online and off.

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