BIDHC-Chelsea’s Latino Rheumatology Clinic Provides Culturally Competent Rheumatologic Care to Spanish-Speaking Patients in the Boston Area

Lindsey Diaz-MacInnis (BIDMC Communications), 617-667-7372

SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

Dr. Jonathan Hausmann (center) and Latino Rheumatology Clinic staff.

Imagine receiving a diagnosis for a chronic health condition – one that will require regular check-ups and monitoring from a specialist for the rest of your life. That alone can be overwhelming. Now also imagine speaking a different language from your physician and care team, and potentially needing to navigate traffic and parking to get into Boston for treatment.

Enter the Latino Rheumatology Clinic, located at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare-Chelsea, a community, outpatient center of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). Directed by Jonathan Hausmann, MD, a native of Venezuela and a rheumatologist at BIDMC, the clinic and has treated more than 100 Latino patients with rheumatic diseases over the past four years, establishing long-term relationships with over half of those patients.

“Sometimes, patients end up bouncing around to different providers and not getting the care they need solely because of language and cultural barriers,” says Hausmann. “Understanding the patient and their cultural background enhances their overall care.”

The specialty clinic, launched in 2015, provides rheumatologic care to Spanish-speaking patients in the Boston area. Dedicated to improving the health of Latino patients, the clinic provides evaluation and treatment for patients with musculoskeletal and autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, and gout. If necessary, physicians work with a network of Spanish-speaking specialists, a BIDMC program called the Latino 360 Initiative, to provide additional services at BIDMC in Boston.

“The ability to see a BIDMC specialist in the community setting saves patients the hassle, time and expense of traveling into Boston,” says Dr. Hausmann. “That’s not just a matter of convenience, but a critical factor in delivering health care more effectively and more consistently to the community.”

Dr. Hausmann illustrates this with an anecdote: one of his patients was experiencing a significant kidney problem, and Dr. Hausmann was able to turn to his nephrology specialist colleague, sitting next to him in the physician work room, for a consultation and an immediate referral. The patient didn’t have to wait or travel elsewhere to be seen, two factors that may have resulted in poorer patient outcome.

“Many of the specialists who have clinic days in Chelsea find their work with the patients very meaningful,” says Hausmann. “For many of the patients – especially the elderly – traveling over the Tobin Bridge into Boston feels overwhelming, even impossible. At BIDHC-Chelsea, these patients and their families have access to the same highly trained specialists right in their own community.”

In addition to time-savings and convenience, another central goal of BIDHC-Chelsea’s Latino Rheumatology Clinic is to address Latino health disparities for the wide population of Latino patients in Chelsea. Language and cultural barriers can impede the health care experience for many patients, and it can be disheartening if a patient and their health care provider don’t speak the same language.

While the Latino Rheumatology Clinic is not exclusively Spanish-speaking, the staff is fully bilingual. From the initial greeting at the start of the visit to scheduling the next appointment at the end of the visit, everything is communicated in Spanish. Dr. Hausmann says that this helps improve patient follow-up and adherence to the clinicians’ recommendations.

Dr. Jonathan Hausmann with his patient, Maria.
Maria, a patient of Dr. Hausmann’s, has been extremely pleased with the care she’s received at the clinic. “I’m very thankful for the clinic; it has been a blessing for me,” says Maria. “I found this clinic at the precise moment when I needed it the most. This clinic opened its doors to me. The staff here asked me right away if I wanted to register as a patient and whether I needed a consultation. I have been a patient for almost six years, and I am very thankful for everything they have done for me.”

In addition to Dr. Hausmann, the other physicians who have pioneered programs at BIDMC tailored to the Latino community include Alan Bonder, MD, a gastroenterologist and Medical Co-Director of Liver Transplantation at BIDMC who leads the Hispanic Liver Center, Pablo A. Quintero Pinzon, MD, a cardiologist at BIDMC who leads the Latino CardioVascular Clinic and Adnan Majid, MD, Director of Interventional Pulmonology at BIDMC who heads up the Latino Pulmonary Clinic.

As a hospital serving a diverse population, BIDMC also provides high-quality interpreter and translation services to non-English speaking patients. Through BIDMC’s Interpreter Services Department, led by Director Shari Gold-Gomez, interpreters bridge communication between health care providers, patients and their families throughout their care at BIDMC from routine exams to informed consents to recovery from surgery. In 2018, the department supported 230,000 interpreted encounters in more than 70 languages.

As for the future of the Latino Rheumatology Clinic? Dr. Hausmann hopes to expand the clinic with the goal of having it become a space where BIDMC clinicians provide culturally competent rheumatologic care while also studying health care disparities among the Latino population.

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,800 physicians and 36,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.