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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with pulmonary and critical care physician Dr. Jamie Rutland, we discuss language barriers and how to provide culturally sensitive care.

MD Newsline:

How do you deal with language barriers so that they don’t impede your ability to deliver quality care?

Dr. Jamie Rutland:

“There are language lines that you can subscribe to. That’s number one. There are definitely language lines that physicians and physician offices can subscribe to. And two is, you want to know the language that your patient is speaking before they come in…

…In the hospital, it’s easy. You just go get the language line. They will call the language line. Easy. You get on the phone. You got the interpreter right there. Done. In your clinic, you need to know the predominant language in your area. So in Southern California, right? A lot of people in my clinic, they speak Spanish because we’ve got a lot of Spanish speakers. So you want to use that to be able to propel you to be successful.”


MD Newsline:

How have you been able to implement culturally sensitive care in your practice?

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Dr. Jamie Rutland:

“I treat my patients very socially, and by that, I mean, I get an understanding of where they’re from, how do they get to their appointments, when can they come, as soon as I see them. And so I think culturally sensitive care is really about the environment [and] the environment in which the patient lives. Right?

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Are you being sensitive to how difficult it is for them? Are you offering them telemetry visits? If you do offer them telemetry visits, do they have a computer or a phone. Right? Or do you just need to get on the telephone? Right? Because you’ve seen them once and you can do this over the telephone.

Are you calculating how much money it is for them to be able to get this medicine? One of the biggest blessings of my life is having this pharmacist in my office. She tells me how much money it’s going to cost the patient. And I ask the patient right then and there, can they afford it? Because if they can’t, they’re not going to get the medicine.

So those are the types of things that I think are culturally sensitive. It’s understanding the environment [in] which your patient lives and operating their treatment personally, making it personalized for them [in] how they interact with their environment.

Again, there are certain programs [when] it comes to asthma in which I can get them the biologic for free, but their inhaler is going to be expensive. So I supplement with samples, I get them the biologic for free, and that’s culturally sensitive because you understand where your patient’s coming from, and what they can and what they can’t do.”


Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.