Why Do We Need More Spanish-Speaking Clinicians in Telemedicine?

by
Bhairavi KS
October 9, 2021

Did you know that Spanish speakers are 16% less likely to have a successful telehealth consultation? Telemedicine has for long been considered as a viable solution to address disparities in healthcare. However, recent data show that there are significant challenges in delivering care to non-English speakers using telemedicine. Let’s look at some stats.

Spanish speakers comprise about 13 per cent of the US population. Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the US,second only to English. The US is also home to the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world.

Given the sheer size of this demographic, any gaps in care delivery models can exacerbate inequities in healthcare.

So, why are Spanish speakers having trouble accessing telemedicine?

1.      Cultural Issues

Spanish-speaking people are an expressive lot. They use hand gestures and body language abundantly to communicate with others. They rely on visual cues to fully understand what others are saying. When consultations are held over call or video, they have difficulties comprehending health advice.

2.      Language Barriers

Many Hispanics either speak only their native language or have limited English proficiency. They have trouble articulating their health concerns clearly to physicians and Advanced Practice Providers over tele-consultations. On the contrary, visiting a healthcare facility works out to be more convenient for them as there will be other healthcare providers who can help translate their condition for them.

3.      Availability of Spanish-Speaking Physicians

According to the AAMC, only 5.8 per cent of doctors in the US are Hispanic. Even though about 36 percent of multilingual physicians can speak Spanish, the number of physicians available to provide care for Spanish speakers amidst systemic and cultural challenges is still low. An increase in the number of multilingual physicians who can speak Spanish can make a big difference to patient openness to give telemedicine a shot.

4.      Lack of medical coverage

Several Hispanics have no medical coverage. Telehealth consultation costs are high and affordability is a major roadblock.

The Road Ahead:

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted serious inequities within the healthcare system that need to be addressed on a war footing. Language barriers and social stigmas have percolated through traditional healthcare settings over to telemedicine. To truly reach out to those in need of healthcare services and minimize the continuing impact of social disparities, we need more clinicians with Hispanic or multicultural and multilingual backgrounds to work in telemedicine. Diverse representation and inclusion can lead to democratization of healthcare services at all levels.

In our mission to forge such an environment for all, we have teamed with healthcare partners who are solely on the lookout for Spanish-speaking physicians and Advanced Practice Providers (APPs). If you think you’d make a great fit, go on and apply for jobs. Let’s make a difference together.

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