Bridging gaps in care for the Asian-American community

May 2, 2024

As a leader in health care, Boston Scientific is committed to improving patient outcomes and helping to create a healthier world. This work includes addressing the vast inequities in care that exist across the United States.

For Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we’re recognizing two employees who have made it a personal and professional mission to ensure people across the country are getting the access to medical solutions they deserve — within AAPI communities and beyond.

Making patient education more available for all

Patient education materials are crucial to getting life-changing therapies into the hands of patients who need them. Through her role as a senior education specialist, Angela Kong noticed the limited number of Boston Scientific product information materials available in the U.S. in Chinese, the third most spoken language in the country.

Kong was excited by the prospect of tackling health equity challenges among underserved populations, particularly Asian-American communities. But translating patient education pamphlets for many different medical devices would be a monumental task. She gathered her colleagues from the Advancing Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Allies — or PEARL — employee resource group to brainstorm a solution.

The PEARL team first reached out to colleagues in the Asia Pacific region to explore leveraging existing materials. While this served as a starting point, additional work was needed to account for the nuances between traditional and simplified Chinese.

“Older patients tend to speak more traditional Chinese, but we also needed to consider the caretaker — who might be the patient’s son or daughter caring for them after a procedure — and that simplified Chinese may be their preference,” says Kong.

Working with the company’s field sales team, customers and physicians, Kong and the team translated seven product brochures into Chinese, as well as Vietnamese and Russian, based on feedback received by the marketing team. The project included a rigorous quality control process to ensure that not only were the materials accurate, but translated in a way that was clear, accessible and relevant to how these languages are spoken today.

Kong was also part of a team that helped update one of the company’s patient ambassador call centers to offer more languages. Patient ambassadors are a community of people who have received a device and have volunteered to share their personal experiences with patients as well as physicians.

“A few years ago, you could only talk to someone in English,” says Kong. “I knew one nurse practitioner who spoke fluent Chinese and one who spoke Vietnamese and I asked the team if it would be possible to start a pilot to have those languages added, plus Spanish. Today, our call center offers 16 new languages — all because someone asked, ‘What’s possible?’”

PEARL members Katie Liao and Amy Deichert were also part of the team that spearheaded the patient education material translations.

Meeting patients where they are

When Jihan Cote heard about PEARL’s success in translating Boston Scientific’s product information brochures into more languages, she knew she wanted to get involved with the group.

As a child, Cote lived in India, then Toronto and, in her teenage years, Pensacola, Florida. These moves shaped her into the health care equity advocate she is today. “In high school there were very few kids who looked like me,” says Cote. “I went by Janet — my middle name — because it was easier for everyone to pronounce and I wanted to blend in with my classmates. It wasn’t until years later that I started to actively correct people.”

In her role as therapy awareness representative at Boston Scientific, Cote meets with physicians and patients to help raise awareness of cardiovascular therapies like the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) device, an implant that can help patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke. AFib is often treated with blood thinners, which can cause bruising and bleeding.

The job gives her the opportunity to highlight, and help address, cultural differences in communication that can often be overlooked in the health care setting and potentially lead to disparities in care.

“Some of my family members don’t take their medication but when they meet with their doctor, they smile and nod because they think that’s what the doctor wants to hear,” Cote says. “They don’t mean to be noncompliant, but in Asian culture where harmony and quiet are valued, it might be more difficult to speak up and say, ‘No, I haven’t been taking my medication because of this or that reason — what other options do I have?’”

Cote also serves as global heart disease awareness champion for PEARL, which involves hosting events aimed at cultivating conversation around health care disparities among underrepresented groups and sharing life experiences as members and allies of these groups.

“At Boston Scientific,” she says, “I know I have a voice and can potentially help further solutions to reach these patients and their providers.”

Boston Scientific is committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where all of our employees can bring their authentic selves to work and thrive personally and professionally. See our objectives and progress to date in our recently released 2023 Performance Report.