Hospitals, Language, and Culture

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the goals of Hospitals, Language, and Culture?

The project seeks to examine how hospitals are addressing patients' cultural and linguistic needs, identify reasonable service expectations for different types of hospitals, and share both conclusions and promising practices with the field.

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Will Hospitals, Language, and Culture examine gender disparities and other non-ethnic cultural issues?

We view culture as defined by the Office of Minority Health: "'Culture' refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious or social groups." In some contexts, "culture" is defined more broadly to include gender, sexual orientation, and disability. For the purposes of this project, "culture" will refer primarily to characteristics of human behavior associated with race, ethnicity, and religion.

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When will Hospitals, Language, and Culture end?

The project will run for 2.5 years, ending in June 2006.

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What is culturally competent healthcare?

The Office of Minority Health defines culturally competent healthcare as "services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs and practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patient populations."  OMH also states:  "Cultural and linguistic competence is the ability of health care providers and health care organizations to understand and respond effectively to the cultural and linguistic needs brought by patients to the health care encounter."  Cross et al. (1989) describe cultural and linguistic competence as:

"…a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations. 'Culture' refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. 'Competence' implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities."

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What is Joint Commission policy regarding cultural competency?

The Joint Commission views the delivery of services in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner as an important healthcare safety and quality issue.  Healthcare organizations are encouraged to provide equitable care, treatment, and services across diverse populations.  For general information on standards related to cultural competency, please contact us at hlc-info@jointcommission.org.  For standard-specific questions, please contact the Standards Interpretation Group at 630-792-5900.  Or for a response by e-mail, complete the "Standards Online Question Submission Form."

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Are hospitals required to participate in site visit evaluations?

No.  Participation is voluntary and serves as an opportunity for each party to learn and exchange information. Learn more about participating in the study.

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Will the site visit evaluation impact participating hospitals' accreditation status?

No.  Hospitals, Language, and Culture will not influence the accreditation scores or process for any individual organization.  Located in the Division of Standards and Survey Methods, the project operates separately from Accreditation Operations.  Identifying characteristics of participating hospitals will remain confidential.  Learn more about participating in the study.

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How can my hospital participate in the site visits?

We are currently recruiting a pre-selected sample of hospitals, however, we will choose a few hospitals for the pilot test.  If you are interested in participating in the pilot test, please contact us at hlc-info@jointcommission.org.  Learn more about study participation and the sampling process.

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Who will serve on the Technical Advisory Panel and how can others participate?

Panel members come from a variety of healthcare and cultural competency backgrounds.  The members include Joint Commission staff, researchers, public servants and policymakers, interpreters, physicians, a linguist, a medical anthropologist, representatives from healthcare associations, advocates, academics, and hospital staff and administrators.  A list of Technical Advisory Panel members is available on this website.

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We would like to start a cultural competency program at our hospital.  Do you have any suggestions?

Our Links page lists organizations involved in cultural competency.

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My organization has implemented a successful cultural competency program and we'd like to share our model with others.  Is there a way we can participate in your project?

In the future, Hospitals, Language, and Culture will provide a resource listing of promising cultural competency programs.  While we cannot guarantee that a specific hospital will participate in the study, we'd definitely like to hear from organizations about their programs.  Please contact us at hlc-info@jointcommission.org.

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Could you send me more information on your project?

Certainly, please contact us at hlc-info@jointcommission.org and we'll send you program materials.

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Could you recommend hospitals I can go to in my area?

Project staff would not be able to provide such information, but you can look up hospitals on the Joint Commission website Quality Check feature.

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What is the Division of Standards and Survey Methods?


We research, develop, test, renew and facilitate the implementation of state-of-the-art standards and survey methods for assessing healthcare organizational performance with respect to the quality and safety of patient care.

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How can I contact HLC staff?

To be added to our mailing list or for more information, please contact us at: hlc-info@jointcommission.org.  Or via U.S. mail at Hospitals, Language, and Culture, Division of Standards and Survey Methods, The Joint Commission, One Renaissance Boulevard, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181.  Or via telephone at 630-792-5957.

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