Saturday, January 10, 2009

California Enacts Interpreter Law for Patients

On January 1st, California became the first U.S. state to enact legislation requiring that all nonpublic managed care health plans cover costs for providing interpreter services to state residents with limited English proficiency (LEP), the Sacramento Bee reports. The law requires health, dental and specialty insurers to provide translators for all languages, either by phone or in person, for subscribers when visiting a physician, pharmacist, ophthalmologist or dentist. Written translation also will be required for select languages.

The article notes that insurers expect to spend a collective $25 million to comply with the new law. However, patients' rights advocates praised the law, saying it will help reduce care quality disparities stemming from miscommunication. California plans to launch a publicity drive in the coming weeks to raise awareness of the new law. Meanwhile, noting that the new law stipulates only that interpreters demonstrate proficiency in interpretation, the California Healthcare Interpreting Association is recommending a certification program to ensure that the interpreters used by health plans are familiar with medical language and how to accurately translate medical terms.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Increasing Organ Donations from the South Asian Community

A Sikh health expert has been awarded £130,000 for a two-year research project which could prove vital in efforts to increase the number of UK organ donations from south Asian and black ethnic groups. NHS Blood and Transport has awarded the funding to Professor Gurch Randhawa, Director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire. It is hoped his findings will inform strategies for future organ donation appeals. Changing perceptions about organ donation among south Asian and black groups is already part of a campaign to increase donations by 50 per cent in the next five years.
Dr. Randhawa states that the need for organ donors was three or four times higher among black and Asian people than among the general population, but donation rates were relatively low among those groups and this impacts directly upon those communities. His project has the backing of a Sikh family in Luton, close to the Bedfordshire university. In January 2001, Mandip Mudhar, a 20-year-old student, died in London’s Royal Free Hospital six days after suffering severe head injuries in a road accident. Told that he would not recover consciousness, his parents decided to donate Mandip’s heart and two kidneys. The Mandip Mudhar Memorial Foundation was started by Mandip’s family.
Among potential donors the refusal rate for non-white groups is 69 per cent, according to Professor Randhawa, compared with 35 per cent for potential white donors. “Community leaders and religious groups need to engage with their local community to encourage organ donation and we need to identify what would make the gifting of organs relevant to a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society,” said the professor.
The Sikh perspective on organ translation is addressed on a leaflet available at the UK Transplant website. It reads: “Sikh philosophy and teachings place great emphasis on the importance of giving and putting others before oneself” It also stresses “the importance of performing noble deeds and there are many examples of selfless giving and sacrifice in Sikh teachings by the ten Gurus and other Sikhs. Sikhs believe life after death is a continuous cycle of rebirth but the physical body is not needed in this cycle – a person’s soul is their real essence.” (The dead sustain their bond with the living through virtuous deed.” Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, p 143) Dr Indarjit Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK has stated that: “The Sikh religion teaches that life after death continues after death in the soul, and not the physical body. The last act of giving and helping others through organ donation is both consistent with, and in the spirit, of Sikh teachings.” [link]