An Exploratory Study to Inform Community-Based Translational Research in North Carolina
BACKGROUND: Health services research of Latinos with limited English proficiency (LEP) have largely focused on studying disparities related to patient-provider communication. Less is known about their non-provider interactions such as those with patient registration systems and clinic front office staff; these interactions precede the encounter with providers and may shape how comfortable patients feel about their overall health services experience. This study explored Latino patients with LEP experiences with, and expectations for, interactions with patient registration systems and front office staff. METHODS: We conducted 20 in-depth interviews with Latinos with LEP (≥ 18 years of age) who seek health services in the Piedmont Triad region, North Carolina. We analyzed participants' quotes and identified themes by using a constant comparison method. This research was conducted by a community-academic partnership; partners were engaged in study design, instrument development, recruitment, data analysis, and manuscript writing. RESULTS: Qualitative analysis allowed us to identify the following recurring themes: 1) inconsistent registration of multiple surnames may contribute to patient misidentification errors and delays in receiving health care; 2) lack of Spanish language services in front office medical settings negatively affect care coordination and satisfaction with health care; and 3) perceived discrimination generates patients' mistrust in front office staff and discomfort with services. CONCLUSION: Latino patients in North Carolina experience health services barriers unique to their LEP background. Participants identified ways in which the lack of cultural and linguistic competence of front office staff negatively affect their experiences seeking health services. Healthcare organizations need to support their staff to encourage patient-centered principles.