Scaling the great wall: The impact of communication barriers on quality of psychiatric care in Chinese patients

Sanya Virani, Tianxu Xia, Navjot Brainch, Souparno Mitra, Saeed Ahmed, Herbert Mutasiigwa, Gaurav Chaudhari, Deval Zaveri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Racial and ethnic minorities (such as Chinese-speaking (CS)) are known to have less equitable access to mental health services than Caucasians. These disparities have a powerful influence on minority groups that already endure a greater burden from mental health needs. Aim: The aim was to identify perceived provider barriers to care for CS patients. Methods: The study involved an 11-item web-based survey to multidisciplinary health professionals in the department of psychiatry at a 75-bed teaching community mental health center. Results: More than half the respondents agreed that there are disparities in the management of CS versus non-CS patients primarily due to the language barrier (46%). However, older participants and participants who worked fewer hours per week in patient care were less likely to agree (rho = −.27, p =.05 and rho =.33, p =.015, respectively) that these perceived difficulties prevented them from caring for these patients. Conclusion: The study revealed that certain modifiable factors like the limited availability of interpreters and culturally appropriate services, rendering psychoeducation and forming therapeutic alliances with CS patients, posed the greatest challenges on inpatient units. In light of these findings, we aim to make recommendations to remediate concerns of limited provider availability by proposing ways to efficiently utilize current resources and advocate for better staffing to improve the overall well-being of this challenging patient subset.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-155
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese-speaking patients
  • Cultural psychiatry
  • communication
  • language barriers


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