Memphis Medical Center (the MED) Improves Language Services for Spanish-Speaking Patients Through RWJF's Hablamos Juntos Program

From 2002 to 2006, the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, known as the MED, in Memphis, Tenn., improved and expanded language services for Spanish-speaking patients throughout the organization.

The MED was one of 10 demonstration sites in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Hablamos Juntos: Improving Patient Provider Communication for Latinos.

Key Results

  • Eight full-time and four part-time trained interpreters were employed at the MED, an increase from two full-time and two part-time interpreters at the beginning of the project.

  • The project was able to substitute technology and other supports for trained staff interpreters in nonmedical encounters, optimizing the use of professional interpreters in clinical settings.

  • Complication rates among Spanish-speaking obstetric patients declined to just over 5 percent, from 33 percent, over the course of the project, according to a University of Memphis evaluator.

  • Executive leadership at the MED included language services in the operating budget when the Hablamos Juntos project ended. The health system's chief operating officer reported that leadership at the MED made the business case for language services based on their contribution to "safety, improved outcomes and better patient satisfaction."