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The impact of language on emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and length of stay among home care recipients


Background — Research considering the impact of language on healthcare utilization is limited. We conducted a population-based study to: (1) investigate the association between residents' preferred language and hospital-based healthcare utilization; and (2) determine whether this association is modified by dementia, a condition which can exacerbate communication barriers.

Methods — We used administrative databases to establish a retrospective cohort study of home care recipients (2015-2017) in Ontario, Canada, where the predominant language is English. Residents' preferred language (obtained from in-person home care assessments) was coded as English (Anglophones), French (Francophones), or other (Allophones). Diagnoses of dementia were ascertained with a previously validated algorithm. We identified all emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations within 1 year.

Results — Compared with Anglophones, Allophones had lower annual rates of ED visits (1.3 vs. 1.8; P<0.01) and hospitalizations (0.6 vs. 0.7; P<0.01), while Francophones had longer hospital stays (9.1 vs. 7.6 d per admission; P<0.01). After adjusting for potential confounders, Francophones and Allophones were less likely to visit the ED or be hospitalized than Anglophones. We found evidence of synergism between language and dementia; the average length of stay for Francophones with dementia was 25% (95% confidence interval: 1.10-1.39) longer when compared with Anglophones without dementia.

Conclusions — Residents whose preferred language was not English were less frequent users of hospital-based healthcare services, a finding that is likely attributable to cultural factors. Francophones with dementia experienced the longest stays in hospital. This may be related to the geographic distribution of Francophones (predominantly in rural areas) or to suboptimal patient-provider communication.



Reaume M, Batista R, Rhodes E, Knight B, Imsirovic H, Seale E, Riad K, Prud'homme D, Tanuseputro P. Med Care. 2021; 59(11):1006-13. Epub 2021 Aug 25.

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