A study in the May 2016 issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine looks at the issue of the ability to speak and understand English and 72 hour returns. The study concludes even with insurance status taken into account, whereas admission rates were unchanged, that people who don’t understand English are more likely to return to the emergency department. Clearly, the takeaway is that we have to communicate more clearly with our non-English speaking patients or perhaps our patients feel more comfortable with us then scheduling an appointment with their primary care physician.
Study objectiveLanguage barriers are known to negatively affect many health outcomes among limited English proficiency patient populations, but little is known about the quality of care such patients receive in the emergency department (ED). This study seeks to determine whether limited English proficiency patients experience different quality of care than English-speaking patients in the ED, using unplanned revisit within 72 hours as a surrogate quality indicator.
Methods:We conducted a retrospective cohort study in an urban adult ED in 2012, with a total of 41,772 patients and 56,821 ED visits. We compared 2,943 limited English proficiency patients with 38,829 English-speaking patients presenting to the ED after excluding patients with psychiatric complaints, altered mental status, and nonverbal states, and those with more than 4 ED visits in 12 months. Two main outcomes—the risk of inpatient admission from the ED and risk of unplanned ED revisit within 72 hours—were measured with odds ratios from generalized estimating equation multivariate models.
Results: Limited English proficiency patients were more likely than English speakers to be admitted (32.0% versus 27.2%; odds ratio [OR]=1.20; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11 to 1.30). This association became nonsignificant after adjustments (OR=1.04; 95% CI 0.95 to 1.15). Included in the analysis of ED revisit within 72 hours were 32,857 patients with 45,546 ED visits; 4.2% of all patients (n=1,380) had at least 1 unplanned revisit. Limited English proficiency patients were more likely than English speakers to have an unplanned revisit (5.0% versus 4.1%; OR=1.19; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.45). This association persisted (OR=1.24; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.53) after adjustment for potential confounders, including insurance status.
Conclusion: We found no difference in hospital admission rates between limited English proficiency patients and English-speaking patients. Yet limited English proficiency patients were 24% more likely to have an unplanned ED revisit within 72 hours, with an absolute difference of 0.9%, suggesting challenges in ED quality of care.