The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health has published an issue brief to help providers and organizations better communicate with patients.

Communication and language barriers can lead to declining clinical outcomes, longer hospital stays, and higher readmission rates. CMS notes that barriers to communication can be especially harmful for Medicare beneficiaries, who are more likely than younger patients to have comorbidities and complex health needs.

The issue brief — titled “Understanding Communication and Language Needs of Medicare Beneficiaries” — includes state and local data about beneficiaries with limited English proficiency and who have visual and hearing impairments. Notable findings include that:

  • beneficiaries living in urban areas are almost four times as likely as those in rural areas to have limited English proficiency;
  • vision impairment is more common among racial minorities, especially American Indian and Alaska Native beneficiaries; and
  • there are few differences with regards to urbanicity and ethnicity between hearing impaired and nonhearing impaired beneficiary populations.

Contact Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.