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Professional Interpreting for Ambulatory Care

Older woman and nurse smiling at each other

Because Communication Should Never Be a Struggle

Ambulatory care settings, also known as outpatient care facilities, treat patients who do not require admission or overnight hospital stays. Some ambulatory care settings include dialysis clinics, ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), hospital outpatient departments, and the offices of physicians and other healthcare practitioners.

For many, these outpatient centers are more convenient and more affordable than traditional hospital services. As a result, the number of US-based outpatient centers grew 51 percent from 2005 to 2016. According to a recent report from CBRE Healthcare Capital Markets, there are currently more than 40,000 outpatient centers in the United States.

For patients undergoing routine surgical procedures that do not require an overnight hospital stay, ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) are a welcomed alternative. Generally more cost-effective, ASCs offer a shorter wait time as well as the convenience of recuperating at home. Since the centers tend to be highly specialized, patients usually report a more personalized experience than they receive in a hospital setting. ASCs are also government-regulated at both the state and federal level to ensure patient safety.

Due to many of these benefits, ASCs are growing in popularity. In fact, there are now well over 9,000 ASCs throughout the country with the highest concentration in California.

Data Source: Definitive Healthcare

Patient Safety and Accreditation

From X-rays, MRIs, and lab tests, to minor surgeries, colonoscopies, and mammograms, procedures and treatment at ambulatory care settings require “complex information management and care coordination across multiple settings, especially for patients with chronic illnesses.”1 With such a wide-reaching and expansive ecosystem, teams must work together toward a common goal of improved patient safety. To that end, accreditation bodies, non-profit organizations, and government institutions have all aimed to improve patient outcomes in ambulatory care settings.

As of 2019, the Joint Commission has accredited over 2,200 freestanding ambulatory care organizations. Joint Commission accreditation (whose standards meet, if not exceed requirements set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is based on “operational systems critical to the safety and quality of patient care.”2 In its report entitled, “Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care”, the Commission emphasizes the critical importance of establishing a medical care environment that includes language access for all patients.

The 2016 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) reported a total of 883.7 million US-based physician (including specialist) office visits alone, and 146.7 million of those visits (nearly 17 percent of the total) were from patients of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.


And while Spanish is the primary language spoken by the majority of non-English speakers within the United States, there are an estimated 350 different languages spoken in the country according to US Census Bureau reports. With such linguistic and cultural diversity, how are ambulatory care facilities bridging the communication gap in order to improve patient outcomes and ensure patient safety?

Government Regulations

In 2010, Section 1557 was enacted into law in an effort to prohibit healthcare facilities (and any facility that receives federal funding) from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. A decade earlier, Executive Order 13166 went into effect, requiring any agency that receives federal funding to provide meaningful language access to limited-English proficient recipients of any federally-funded service. As a result, these regulations have helped improve patient-provider communication in nearly every healthcare facility across the country.

According to the House Committee on the Budget, “Nearly 40 percent of Americans are covered by a public health insurance plan, which is funded and/or directly administered by the federal government [and] nearly one in ten Americans who are uninsured may receive some health care subsidized by the federal government..”3

The committee goes on to claim that over 60 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, 75 million in Medicaid, and the Veterans Health Administration is also funded by the federal government. Even health insurance through various employers is often subsidized at the federal level. In essence, nearly all medical care facilities within the United States receive, at least in part, federal financial compensation and therefore, must comply with Section 1557 and Executive Order 13166.

Partnering with LSPs that Specialize in Healthcare

As more and more patients from diverse backgrounds turn to ambulatory care facilities to seek medical care and treatment, the need for effective communication has become an increasingly hot topic. For years, a growing body of research has helped to establish a clear relationship between language and that of patient safety, and has consistently shown that healthcare interpreting and translation services help to improve patient satisfaction, patient safety, and health outcomes.

Working toward a culture of effective communication requires a firm commitment to, and investment in, evidence-based strategies such as partnering with language service providers (LSPs) that specialize in healthcare translation and interpreting services. Although there are several LSPs that offer language services for the healthcare industry, it is important to partner with an LSP that requires their interpreters to be qualified and have a background in the healthcare field.

At Akorbi, we provide professional language solutions in over 170 languages. Not only are we fully compliant with federal government regulations, but we ensure that all of our qualified medical interpreters have a minimum of 3 years experience in a healthcare setting. At Akorbi, we believe that communication should never be a struggle. Isn’t it time you partnered with the best?

Reach out today.


Created in partnership with GIM Writing Services.


1 “Ambulatory Care.” AHRQ, U.S. HHS: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 17 Nov. 2014, https://www.ahrq.gov/patient-safety/settings/ambulatory/tools.html.

2 Jointcommission.org, https://www.jointcommission.org/facts_about_ambulatory_care_accreditation/.

3 “A Visit to the Doctor's Office: How the U.S. Government Keeps Americans Safe and Healthy.” House Budget Committee Democrats, 24 Sept. 2019, https://budget.house.gov/publications/report/visit-doctors-office-how-us-government-keeps-americans-safe-and-healthy.

Other References:

“2016 National Summary Tables.” National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, NAMCS, 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ahcd/namcs_summary/2016_namcs_web_tables.pdf.

Kacik, Alex. “Number of Outpatient Facilities Surges as Industry Values More Convenient, Affordable Care.” Modern Healthcare, 20 Dec. 2018, https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20181220/NEWS/181229992/number-of-outpatient-facilities-surges-as-industry-values-more-convenient-affordable-care.

Moriarty, Alanna. “How Many Ambulatory Surgery Centers Are in the US?” How Many Ambulatory Surgery Centers Are in the US?, Definitive Healthcare, 1 May 2019, https://blog.definitivehc.com/how-many-ascs-are-in-the-us.

US Census Bureau. “Census Bureau Reports at Least 350 Languages Spoken in U.S. Homes.” The United States Census Bureau, 3 Nov. 2015, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-185.html.
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Here’s what Akorbi is doing in response to COVID-19. Learn More »