Culturally and linguistically appropriate hospital services reduce medicare length of stay

Academic Article


  • Introduction: Almost 40% of the 63 million Americans who speak a language other than English have limited English proficiency (LEP). This communication barrier can result in poor quality care and potentially adverse health outcomes. Of particular interest is that the greatest proportion of LEP adults are aged >65 years and will face barriers and delays in accessing high-quality care. Age cohort variation of LEP burden has not been widely addressed. Culturally and linguistically appropriate hospital care delivery can mitigate these barriers. Methods: In order to test whether culturally competent services reduced length-of-stay (LOS), we linked organizational cultural competence surveys across two-states (CA+FL) for comparison across Medicare acute care LOS. Using the 2013 American Hospital Association Database, and Hospital Compare Data from CMS (N=184), we compared hospital structure with culturally and linguistically appropriate services related to improved care delivery for LEP populations and aging LEP populations. We utilized Kruskal-Wallis to test group differences and a negative binomial regression to model median LOS. All analyses were conducted using SAS 9.4 (Cary, NC). Results: Median LOS across all hospitals was 4.7 days (mean 5.7, standard deviation 6.3). Most hospitals were not-for-profit (46.7%), small (<150 beds, 54.4%), Joint Commission accredited (67.9%), and in urban areas. We found shorter median LOS when hospital units identified cultural or language needs at admission (Wald χ2 3.82, P=.0506). Hospitals’ identification of these needs at discharge had no impact on LOS. Hospitals that accommodated patient cultural or ethnic dietary needs also reported lower median LOS (Wald χ2 12.93, P=.0003). Structurally, public hospitals, accredited hospitals, and hospitals that reported system membership were predictive of a lower median LOS. Discussion: Our findings demonstrate that patient outcomes are responsive to culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Further, our findings suggest understanding of culturally competent care in hospitals is lacking. A larger and multi-level sample across the United States could yield a greater understanding of the role of culturally and linguistically appropriate care for a rapidly growing population of diverse older adults.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Schiaffino MK; Ruiz M; Yakuta M; Contreras A; Akhavan S; Prince B; Weech-Maldonado R
  • Start Page

  • 603
  • End Page

  • 610
  • Volume

  • 30
  • Issue

  • 4