Health Care Quality Perceptions Among Foreign-Born Latinos and the Importance of Speaking the Same Language

Latinos comprise 15 percent of the U.S. population and may grow to 33 percent by 2050. Only half of Latinos speak English well, with implications for the provision of health care services today and in the future.

To evaluate the relationship between language and health care quality among foreign-born Latinos, this study used the 2007 Pew Hispanic Center/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Latino Health Survey. Researchers looked at three outcomes of a recent clinical experience, specifically whether the respondent:

  • Was confused by the information they were given.
  • Was frustrated by a lack of information or an inability to find what they wanted to know.
  • Felt he or she received poor medical treatment because of how he or she spoke English.

Respondents rated the overall quality of all medical care received during the past 12 months. They rated their own English and Spanish verbal proficiency. When their proficiency did not match the language of the clinical encounter (Spanish proficient but appointment conducted in English, for example), it was classified as discordant.

English proficiency was not associated with any of the clinical experience outcomes examined. Language concordance was significantly associated with lower odds of experiencing confusion, frustration and reporting poor care quality because of language differences.