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Hindi ranks second among non-English languages spoken by US physicians

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The San Francisco-based Doximity connects physicians and advanced practice clinicians to make them more successful and productive.

A recent research study reveals that Hindi is the most widely spoken non-English language among physicians in the United States. The language is spoken by 13.8 percent of the multilingual physicians in the country and is second only to Spanish.

The first-of-its-kind research study, titled ‘Language Barriers in US Health Care,’ was released last week by Doximity, the largest professional network for the US healthcare professionals.

The report found a significant “language gap” between those languages spoken by physicians and their patients. It analyzed the languages – other than English – US physicians report speaking nationally, and across the largest 50 metropolitan areas in the country.

There are 36.2 percent physicians speaking Spanish in the United States while the other languages that made to the top ten are Hindi (13.8%), French ( 8.8%), Persian/Farsi (7.6%), Chinese (5.2%), Arabic (4.1%), German (3.7%), Russian (3%), Italian (2.7%) and Hebrew (1.9%).

“The most important conversations we have as physicians are with our patients,” Nate Gross, MD, co-founder of Doximity, said in a press release. “A growing body of research has shown patients achieve better health when they can communicate with their caregivers in the same language. Understanding imbalances between languages can help address communication challenges across our health care system.”

This report, drawn from a physicians sample size of more than 60,000 respondents nationally, details which languages are most commonly spoken by US physicians, how these languages are most commonly spoken by US physicians, how these languages compare with those spoken by patient populations, and the dynamics across each in the top 50 US metro areas.

The study also ranked each language to understand how physicians and patient populations compare. According to the study, physicians who speak second languages, both native and foreign-born, play a key role in caring for patients who are not proficient in English. Of all the physicians who speak a non-English language, 44.7 percent are graduated from a medical school located outside the United States. Many of these foreign graduates are immigrants to the US, and the language skills they bring are important in clinical settings given the diverse language spoken by the US public.

The physicians and patients group share only six of the top 10 most common languages with each other. Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Swahili and Sub-Saharan African are included among the top 10 languages for patients, while physicians more commonly speak Persian/Farsi, German, Italian, and Hebrew. Washington, DC, is ranked first as the metro area with a significant “language gap.”

“Previous research has not determined which non-English languages are most commonly spoken by physicians, or how those languages compare to patient populations,” said Christopher Whaley, lead author and adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. “Understanding the scope of this problem is the first step to creating solutions for people with limited English proficiency.”

The San Francisco-based Doximity, which was founded in 2011, connects physicians and advanced practice clinicians to make them more successful and productive. It is the largest secure medical network with over 70 percent of all US physicians as members, enabling collaboration across specialties and every major medical center.