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Program Requirements

Eliminating Communications Roadblocks to Quality Health Care for Spanish-Speakers

Hablamos Juntos is supporting ten health care organizations working to improve health care for Latino patients by breaking down language barriers that can lead to medical errors, compromise the overall quality of care, and limit Latino access to health care services. These demonstration sites will focus on developing and implementing practical steps that health care providers throughout the country can adopt to overcome language roadblocks that compromise care.

All demonstration sites are focused on three essential benchmarks for improving health care services:

  • Increase the availability and quality of interpretation services for Latino patients who speak little English;
  • Provide useful informational materials in Spanish; and
  • Develop easy-to-understand ways for non-English speaking patients to find their way around health care facilities.

Increase the availability and quality of interpretation services for Latino patients who speak little English.

To reach this goal, demonstration sites will assess the interpreter services and Spanish materials currently available to Latino patients who speak little English. Sites will train more staff to successfully communicate with or interpret for Latino patients. The sites will monitor their trial programs’ success at reducing communication barriers for Latino patients. Specifically, each site will:

Develop and train staff
Demonstration sites will use Interpreter Readiness Assessment tools developed for Hablamos Juntos to review the language and interpreting ability of all bilingual staff used intermittently as interpreters. Sites will use or develop introductory courses to orient bilingual staff to the role of interpreting. The goal of the assessment is to develop individual improvement plans for bilingual staff and to prepare them to function as interpreters within their abilities.

Establish a professional interpreter training program
Using the guidelines put forth by Hablamos Juntos, demonstration sites will establish educational programs to train professional interpreters using a more extensive curriculum than is currently available. All professional interpreters will be required to complete at least 220 classroom hours, and another 80 to 100 hours of on-the-job training. Demonstration sites working with local educational institutions will fund the training of at least two qualified instructors to develop and teach the recommended curriculum locally. Sites will also develop a mentoring program that pairs new staff interpreters with experienced interpreters and enables interpreters to convene at least once a month to learn from one another.

Build organizational support
Demonstration sites will solicit the support of executive leadership of the local health care organizations to foster policies that promote effective language services and continuous staff development in their facilities. All staff will be trained to use language services and taught how to communicate with patients using interpreters. Special attention will be paid to eliminating language barriers for Spanish-speaking patients at key access points, such as receptionist and appointment desk, using solutions that combine staff language ability with telephone and computer technology.

Develop outside partnerships
Hablamos Juntos demonstration sites will reach beyond health care facilities and support community efforts to promote better communication between Latinos and health care providers. Efforts will include increasing bilingual abilities of both English and non-English speakers; encouraging medical schools and other health science programs to prepare future health care professionals to work through interpreters and in multilingual environments; encouraging local leaders to invest in English as a Second Language programs; and using the media and other vehicles to promote understanding and support for language services in health care.

Provide Useful Informational Materials in Spanish

Demonstration sites will identify ways to improve communication with Latino patients by creating Spanish versions of important health care materials that are currently only available in English. In addition to print materials, sites will explore the effectiveness of other communications tools, such as videos or computer kiosks. Specifically, each site will:

  • Provide better materials. Demonstration sites will develop procedures for determining which materials to develop in Spanish, identifying material that can be effectively translated from an English version, material to create anew or develop in other mediums.
  • Develop contracting guidelines. Sites will develop standards for all outside contractors to use when creating or translating health care related materials for Spanish speakers.
  • Evaluate new products. To determine the usability of their existing and new products, the sites will use the Spanish Language Materials Evaluation Tool provided by Hablamos Juntos.

Develop easy-to-understand ways for patients to find their way around health care facilities.

Demonstration sites will develop and test a health signage system that uses pictograms and symbols to help Latino and other patients who speak little English find their way around health care facilities. Specifically, each site will:

  • Test a health signage system. Hablamos Juntos will engage design engineers, health care workers, and consumers in developing a signage system for health care facilities. We will test pictograms and symbols that are easily recognizable to a wide cross-section of patients and health care professionals. Demonstration sites will gather data about the usefulness for multilingual and Latino patients who speak little English or are unable to read well to establish a health signage system that can be adopted and replicated in other health care facilities.


If you have further questions about the Hablamos Juntos Project, please direct them to info@hablamosjuntos.org or call our office at 559.241.6532.