Driven by the requirements of the HITECH Act and by the promise of incentive payments, healthcare providers and physicians across the U.S. are eagerly pursing the sometimes elusive goal of “meaningful use.” While this concept is clearly defined by the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, even utmost clarity does not make meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) any easier to achieve.

Oftentimes neglected, patient satisfaction is actually the cornerstone to every successful EHR initiative. Surprisingly, patient satisfaction is not currently included in meaningful use criteria. Access and engagement are included in this criteria – and this would likely lead to patient satisfaction – but the ultimate goal of patient satisfaction itself is not implicitly stated within meaningful use criteria.

While not directly correlated with the achievement of meaningful use and the receipt of incentive payments, many healthcare organizations still place a high value on patient satisfaction.

On the road to patient satisfaction there are, unfortunately, many obstacles. One obstacle is providing English-as-a-second-language (ESL) populations with access to personal health records (PHRs). A common measure of patient satisfaction is the quality and extent of communication they are able to engage in with healthcare providers. Since the standard language for most EHR systems and healthcare providers is English, this makes it difficult for ESL populations to get the health information they need.

The ESL population in the U.S. is actually quite large. The majority of this population resides within the inner city, and because of their limited income, they often lack internet access. In addition to the language barrier, lack of adequate technology creates another barrier to the ESL population being able to access personal health records.

Despite these roadblocks, there are still options for healthcare providers that want to adequately serve this population and ultimately achieve high overall patient satisfaction. One option is to implement a flexible, multilingual EHR solution. Healthcare providers should look for an EHR system that accepts and translates multiple languages. While multilingual solutions are not as mainstream among EHR solutions as they are among ERP solutions, this will hopefully change soon. The ideal EHR solution for the ESL population is one with instant translation of online communication between patient and provider and instant translation of patients’ personal health records.

To overcome the roadblock of limited technology access, healthcare providers can establish a local computer lab within their healthcare facility. Since much of the inner city ESL population lives within a reasonable distance of a healthcare facility, a computer lab equipped with multilingual EHR software is the ideal environment for achieving patient satisfaction.

While “meaningful use” criteria does not currently include patient satisfaction measures, focusing on patient satisfaction among underserved ESL populations will help healthcare providers achieve other meaningful use criteria along the way.

Learn more by visiting our Healthcare Software page and reading our blog post, Is the Healthcare Industry Ready for Electronic Health Records?

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