Part 1 of 3: New Oregon Law May Close Gaps in Patient Care


In the first part of our interview, Dr. Charles Lee will explain what this new Oregon law stipulates, the significance of this legislation, and some of the consequences of medication errors due to patient language barriers.

Drug Topics®: Hello, I'm Gabrielle Ientile for Drug Topics®. Today I'm joined by Dr. Charles Lee, senior director of clinical knowledge - Meducation at First Databank (FDB). Dr. Lee, thanks for being here today.

Lee: Oh, you're very welcome. Appreciate the time.

Drug Topics®: So before we get into our topic today, Dr. Lee, can you speak a bit to your professional background and your work with FDB?

Lee: Okay, so I'm an internal medicine physician. And I also have a background in medical informatics from the University of North Carolina (UNC) program in Chapel Hill. One of the underlying things that kind of drives me is that, in addition to my healthcare background, I'm a first generation Korean immigrant and came to the United States when I was 7 years old. And I always struggled with the English language.

So, as I was going through my healthcare education, one of the things that I was always very sensitive to was our ability to communicate with patients and whether they truly understand what we're trying to say. When the opportunity came along about to learn about how we can do this in other languages, in addition to just English, that was a particular area of interest that I became involved in and as a focus of my career.

"As I was going through my healthcare education, one of the things that I was always very sensitive to was our ability to communicate with patients and whether they truly understand what we're trying to say."

Drug Topics®: Thank you for that background. And we're going to get into, a little bit more into your story on this topic a bit later. But to start, what is this new prescription labeling law in Oregon, and when does it go into effect?

Lee: Okay, so the law actually passed in June of 2019. And the requirement is that, the legislator passed state Senate Bill 698, which requires the State Board of Pharmacy to come up with regulations that provide language services, translated language services, in 14 languages for any pharmacy that dispenses directly to a patient.

So, if they dispense to a hospital or an institution, they're not required. But as long as they dispense to a patient, whether it's a physical building, or whether it's a mail order pharmacy, they have to provide these services to patients. And this requires a dual language, so both the English and one of the 14 languages must be provided upon request by either the patient, the physician or an advocate on behalf of the patient.

And also, this requirement actually got implemented January 1 of 2021. However, because pharmacies needed some extra time to implement this, the enforcement won't happen until January 1 of 2022. So they have a one year lead time to catch up.

Drug Topics®: And what is the significance of this law? Why is it being passed now and what is the state of Oregon hoping to accomplish by implementing this law?

Lee: Okay, so the reason why this guy started in the first place was there was several faculty members and staff at the Oregon Health and Science University, that, during their outreach program to a lot of immigrants around the area, they noticed that 75% of them were making medication errors at home, which is a pretty significant number.

And considering that Oregon had over 220,000 patients who don't speak the English language, the opportunity for medication errors and ED visits and adverse events is just tremendously high. And they felt that there was an opportunity to reduce those kinds of hospitalizations, the costs involved with those opportunities for errors.

So that's why they these advocates approached several other organizations within Oregon and state legislators who thought that this was a no brainer, and then they got this through their system and passed last June.

Drug Topics®: Thanks for watching. For more expert interviews, visit

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