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University of Rochester Medical Center to Participate in Initiative to Help Hospitals Better Communicate with Patients who Speak Limited English

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Strong Memorial Hospital has been selected as one of 10 hospitals nationwide to participate in Speaking Together: National Language Services Network, a national program to improve the quality of health care provided to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). The hospitals will participate in a high-level national learning collaborative aimed at helping to develop tested language services programs that provide more effective and timely communications to patients with LEP.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered by The George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, Speaking Together is the latest addition to the Foundation’s portfolio of programs to improve the quality of health care in America, while eliminating racial and ethnic disparities.

Research shows that when patients have difficulty communicating with their health care providers, they are far less likely to understand their conditions, adequately communicate symptoms or adhere to treatment recommendations. While all hospitals nationwide are legally required to provide language services to patients who speak limited English, there are no federal guidelines on the most effective ways to communicate with these patients.

“Hospitals like Strong Memorial have had interpreter services for decades,” said Kathleen Parrinello, Strong Memorial Hospital chief operating officer.  “Through the Speaking Together collaborative, we can take this a step further, developing best practices and demonstrating the link between improved communication and improved outcomes.  We look forward to working in collaboration with other hospitals to help improve care and reduce disparities for patients in Rochester, and ultimately across the nation.” 

“Language differences represent one of the most obvious barriers to the provision of quality medical care,” said Marsha Regenstein, PhD, MCP, associate professor in the department of Health Policy at George Washington University and director of the Speaking Together National Program Office. “Too often, bilingual family members or hospital staff members who have no training in interpreting medical terminology serve as the go-between for a patient and his physician and other hospital staff because a trained language services professional is not readily available. Just as any patient expects care from a trained, qualified health care professional, a patient with limited English proficiency should expect that timely interpreter services will be provided by professionals who are specially trained in interpreting health and medical information. Through this program, we’re going to identify the most effective, efficient ways that can happen.”  

The University of Rochester Medical Center will receive a grant of up to $60,000, as well as technical assistance and training using quality improvement measures developed by The George Washington University Department of Health Policy. The 16-month collaborative process will examine how the hospitals communicate with non-English-speaking patients, and will focus on how hospital staff can better structure and manage language services programs in order to have effective, efficient and timely communications with LEP patients.

Strong Memorial’s Speaking Together initiative will focus on testing improvements in language interpretation services among patients with diabetes in its Internal Medicine faculty practice and among patients admitted to its cardiology unit.  Parrinello expects that improvements made at Strong and at other Speaking Together partners will be employed throughout the Strong Health patient care network. 

Strong’s Speaking Together team is led by Kathy Miraglia, M.S.,C.S.C. Manager, Interpreter Services, Andrew Williams, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine in the General Medicine Unit, Victoria Ramos-Rodriguez B.A., Supervisor, Spanish Interpreters, Susan Saunders, L.M.S.W. Director, Strong Health Care Management and Marina Marchioli, M.B.A. Director of Administrative Services, Strong Health Care Management. 

Proven best practices learned from Strong Memorial and other Speaking Together partners will be shared with health professionals across the nation, giving hospitals with linguistically diverse patients concrete and tested examples of effective language services programs and interventions that they can adopt.

For more information about Strong Health visit  Information about Speaking Together is available at


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

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