The most concise and helpful set of guidelines for health care organizations looking to become compliant with legal and industry standards are those set out by the Department of Health and Human Services in the National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS). These standards are firmly rooted in civil rights legislation such as Title IV and the ADA.

According to the Office of Minority Health:

The National CLAS Standards

The National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards in Health and Health Care are intended to advance health equity, improve quality and help eliminate health care disparities by establishing a blueprint for health and health care organizations to:

Principal Standard

1) Provide effective, equitable, understandable and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs.

Governance, Leadership and Workforce

2) Advance and sustain organizational governance and leadership that promotes CLAS and health equity through policy, practices and allocated resources.

3) Recruit, promote and support a culturally and linguistically diverse governance, leadership and workforce that are responsive to the population in the service area.

4) Educate and train governance, leadership and workforce in culturally and linguistically appropriate policies and practices on an ongoing basis.

Communication and Language Assistance

5) Offer language assistance to individuals who have limited English proficiency and/or other communication needs, at no cost to them, to facilitate timely access to all health care and services.

6) Inform all individuals of the availability of language assistance services clearly and in their preferred language, verbally and in writing.

7) Ensure the competence of individuals providing language assistance, recognizing that the use of untrained individuals and/or minors as interpreters should be avoided.

8) Provide easy-to-understand print and multimedia materials and signage in the languages commonly used by the populations in the service area.

Engagement, Continuous Improvement and Accountability

9) Establish culturally and linguistically appropriate goals, policies and management accountability, and infuse them throughout the organizations’ planning and operations.

10) Conduct ongoing assessments of the organization’s CLAS-related activities and integrate CLAS-related measures into assessment measurement and continuous quality improvement activities.

11) Collect and maintain accurate and reliable demographic data to monitor and evaluate the impact of CLAS on health equity and outcomes and to inform service delivery.

12) Conduct regular assessments of community health assets and needs and use the results to plan and implement services that respond to the cultural and linguistic diversity of populations in the service area.

13) Partner with the community to design, implement and evaluate policies, practices and services to ensure cultural and linguistic appropriateness.

14) Create conflict- and grievance-resolution processes that are culturally and linguistically appropriate to identify, prevent and resolve conflicts or complaints.

15) Communicate the organization’s progress in implementing and sustaining CLAS to all stakeholders, constituents and the general public.2

For more information click here.

Here is a fascinating report by the George Washington University – School of Public Health and Health Services, funded by The California Endowment.

Talking With Patients

How Hospitals Use Bilingual Clinicians and Staff to Care for Patients with Language Need