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Open Access Research

English language proficiency and the accommodations for language non-concordance amongst patients utilizing chiropractic college teaching clinics

Richard P Saporito

Author Affiliations

Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences, University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic, 75 Linden Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604, USA

Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2013, 21:7  doi:10.1186/2045-709X-21-7

Published: 1 February 2013

Abstract

Background

The number of households in the United States that are not proficient in the English language is growing and presenting a challenge to the health care system. Over nineteen percent of the US population speak a language other than English in the home. This increase in language discordance generates a greater need to find and implement accommodations in the clinical setting to insure accurate and efficient diagnosis and treatment as well as provide for patient safety. Aim: The purpose of this study is to determine the percentage of patients accessing the chiropractic college teaching clinics who are not proficient in the English language and to what extent the colleges provide accommodations for that language disparity.

Methods

The clinic directors and deans of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges were surveyed via an on-line survey engine. The survey queried the percentage of the patient population that is not English language proficient, the accommodations the college currently has in place, if the college has a language specific consent to treat document and if the college has a written policy concerning patients without English proficiency.

Results

Fifty percent of the contacted chiropractic colleges responded to the survey. In the respondent college clinics 16.5% of the patient population is not proficient in English, with over 75% speaking Spanish. All but one of the respondents provide some level of accommodation for the language non-concordance. Forty five percent of the responding colleges employ a language specific consent to treat form. The implementation of accommodations and the use of a language specific consent to treat form is more prevalent at colleges with a higher percentage of non-English speaking patients.

Conclusions

The percentage of patients with limited English proficiency accessing services at the teaching clinics of the chiropractic colleges mirrors the numbers in the general population. There is a wide disparity in the accommodations that the individual colleges make to address this language discordance. There is a need to further develop accurate and meaningful accommodations to address language disparity in the chiropractic teaching clinics.

Keywords:
English language proficiency; Language concordance; Accommodations; Informed consent; Chiropractic teaching clinics