Language-Appropriate Appointment Reminders: Assessing the Communication Preferences of Women With Limited English Proficiency

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Abstract

Introduction:

The purpose of this study was to assess the communication preferences and the telephone, text, and e-mail usage of women with limited English proficiency who attended an outpatient women's health clinic.

Methods:

This study surveyed a convenience sample (N = 220) of Spanish- and Arabic-speaking women in an obstetrics and gynecology clinic. The survey instrument was designed to capture the experience of women with limited English proficiency who received automated English-only telephone appointment reminders. We evaluated how these women currently use short message service (SMS) technology and/or access e-mail, the costs they incur for these services, and their preferences for and receptiveness to receiving appointment reminders through a variety of modalities including text, e-mail, phone, or direct mail.

Results:

More than half of women surveyed reported either not receiving an appointment reminder or reported difficulty understanding the reminder they did receive. Of all women surveyed, 91% preferred appointment reminders in their primary language regardless of their ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. Significant variation in preferences was found within and between the 2 language groups.

Discussion:

The data suggest that the current appointment-reminder system is both inefficient and linguistically inappropriate for female clients with limited English proficiency. This project offers preliminary data on the preferences of Spanish- and Arabic-speaking women. Creating language-appropriate appointment reminders in both phone and text formats reflects an institutional commitment to the language preferences of all women, not just those who speak the dominant language, in accordance with accreditation guidelines defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and The Joint Commission.

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