The Impact of Limited English Proficiency on Healthcare Access and Outcomes in the U.S.: A Scoping Review

By Sylvia E. Twersky, Rebeca Jefferson, Lisbet Garcia-Ortiz, Erin Williams and Carol Pina 

Healthcare 202412(3), 364; Submission received: 29 December 2023 / Revised: 24 January 2024 / Accepted: 25 January 2024 / Published: 31 January 2024


A majority of individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) in the U.S. are foreign-born, creating a complex intersection of language, socio-economic, and policy barriers to healthcare access and achieving good outcomes. Mapping the research literature is key to addressing how LEP intersects with healthcare. This scoping review followed PRISMA-ScR guidelines and included PubMed/MEDLINE, CINAHL, Sociological Abstracts, EconLit, and Academic Search Premier. Study selection included quantitative studies since 2000 with outcomes specified for adults with LEP residing in the U.S. related to healthcare service access or defined health outcomes, including healthcare costs. A total of 137 articles met the inclusion criteria. Major outcomes included ambulatory care, hospitalization, screening, specific conditions, and general health. Overall, the literature identified differential access to and utilization of healthcare across multiple modalities with poorer outcomes among LEP populations compared with English-proficient populations. Current research includes inconsistent definitions for LEP populations, primarily cross-sectional studies, small sample sizes, and homogeneous language and regional samples. Current regulations and practices are insufficient to address the barriers that LEP individuals face to healthcare access and outcomes. Changes to EMRs and other data collection to consistently include LEP status and more methodologically rigorous studies are needed to address healthcare disparities for LEP individuals.

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This article was originally published by MDPI.

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