Department of Medicine 2016 Tech Challenge

New Uses of Information Technology to Advance the Missions of the Department of Medicine

Bridging the gap to providing care for LEP (Limited English Proficiency) patients

Idea Status: 


To create patient education materials and handouts for patients in their native language.


San Francisco has an incredibly diverse population. Census data shows that approximately 45% of households have a language other than English spoken at home.  Nearly 30% of these households identify as speaking English “not well” or “not at all” resulting in approximately 1 out of 8 San Francisco residents identifying as having limited English proficiency (LEP)

Brief description of intervention

Despite the prevalence of LEP patients in our city, the patient education materials that we distribute to patients are often given only in English. This includes:

a)     the patient instructions and education materials when patients are discharged from the hospital

b)     the after visit summary given after outpatient visits

c)     the entire MyChart interface

d)     letters mailed to patients

e)     advanced directive forms available for inpatients at UCSF

Given the availability of automatic translation tools (granted of varying quality), we should be doing much better at delivering patients language concordant information. This proposal aims to identify better ways to provide patients materials in their native written language. This effort could be implemented in many ways

a)     As an consideration in all new projects (including many of the proposed projects on this site) such as:

                        i.         the PREPARE project (providing multiple language guidance through advanced care planning)

                       ii.         the automatic dictation of visit summary project

b)     As an addition/revision of already existing resources including the ones listed above (patient education materials, after visit summary, mailings to patients)

In terms of implementation, there would be a number of potential approaches including:

a)     Automatic translation of English words typed by a provider (much like how Google does)

b)     A dictionary of common phrases that are already translated into the three to five most common languages. These can be used by providers trying to communicate common instructions / directions

c)     Translating many of our already existing patient education and informational materials (or finding similar ones already in the patient’s language) and making it accessible in Apex to providers trying to provide patient education whether in the discharge instructions, patient's after visit summary, or via MyChart

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