The Influence of Patient-Provider Language Concordance in Cancer Care: Results of the Hispanic Outcomes by Language Approach (HOLA) Randomized Trial.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Delivering linguistically competent care is critical to serving patients who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and represents a key national strategy to help reduce health disparities. Current acceptable standards of communication with patients who have LEP include providers communicating through professional interpretive services or bilingual providers speaking the patients' preferred language directly. This randomized clinical trial tests the effect of patient-provider language concordance on patient satisfaction.

Methods and materials

Eighty-three adult Spanish-speaking patients with cancer were randomly assigned to receive care from either (1) 1 of 2 bilingual physicians speaking to the patient directly in Spanish or (2) the same physicians speaking English and using a professional interpreter service. Validated questionnaires were administered to assess patient-reported satisfaction with both provider communication and overall care. Transcripts of initial consultations were analyzed for content variations.


Compared with patients receiving care through professional interpretive services, patients cared for in direct Spanish reported significantly improved general satisfaction, technical quality of care (mean composite score [MCS], 4.41 vs 4.06; P = .005), care team interpersonal manner (MCS, 4.37 vs 3.88; P = .004), communication (MCS, 4.50 vs 4.25; P = .018), and time spent with patient,(MCS, 4.30 vs 3.92; P = .028). Specific to physician communication, patients rated direct-Spanish care more highly in perceived opportunity to disclose concerns (MCS 4.91 vs 4.62; P = .001), physician empathy (MCS, 4.94 vs 4.59; P <.001), confidence in physician abilities (MCS, 4.84 vs 4.51; P = .001), and general satisfaction with their physician (MCS, 4.88 vs 4.59; P <.001). Analyzing the content of consultation encounters revealed differences between study arms, with the direct-Spanish arm having more physician speech related to patient history verification (mean number of utterances, 13 vs 9; P = .01) and partnering activities (mean utterances, 16 vs 5; P <.001). Additionally, patients in the direct-Spanish arm were more likely to initiate unprompted speech (mean utterances, 11 vs 3; P <.001) and asked their providers more questions (mean utterances, 11 vs 4; P = .007).


This study shows improved patient-reported satisfaction among patients with cancer who had LEP and were cared for in direct Spanish compared with interpreter-based communication. Further research into interventions to mitigate the patient-provider language barrier is necessary to optimize care for this population.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Seible, DM; Kundu, S; Azuara, A; Cherry, DR; Arias, S; Nalawade, VV; Cruz, J; Arreola, R; Martinez, ME; Nodora, JN; Rahn, DA; Murphy, JD

Published Date

  • November 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 111 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 856 - 864

PubMed ID

  • 34058256

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9137326

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-355X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0360-3016

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2021.05.122


  • eng