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Many Pediatricians Still Not Using Interpreters

Healthcare Annie Pagano on Mar 16, 2016 9:06:00 AM

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Reuters published an article entitled “Many Pediatricians Still Not Using Interpreters”. It discusses the fact that almost half of pediatricians in the USA do not use professional interpreters while seeing patients and families with a limited understanding of the English language.

It speaks of how most pediatricians use the patients’ family members to communicate. The two main issues with this is the fact that many errors are likely to occur while interpreting or the family member tends to withhold sensitive or painful information for emotional reasons.

 The article suggests that the best two options are to either have a bilingual doctor or to hire a professional interpreter. There is then dialogue that speaks of surveys conducted 2004 and 2010, each of them including about 700 U.S. pediatricians who saw patients with limited English proficiency.


The surveys asked doctors how they communicated with their patients: via bilingual family members, staff, a formal interpreter or educational materials written in patients' primary language. The results were as follows, “Most pediatricians said they used a bilingual family member, although the proportion reporting that technique fell from 70 percent to 57 percent between 2004 and 2010. The proportion of doctors using formal interpreters grew from 50 percent to 56 percent over the same period.” They speak about how when miscommunication in diagnosis occurs, treatment may be delayed or expensive tests may be ordered when they are not necessary.


The study showed how more pediatricians are using interpreters now but the issue is that they are struggling to keep up with the increased demand. Another interesting tidbit is that the doctors in the study were twice as likely to use a formal interpreter in states where Medicaid reimburses for those services as in states without coverage. The fact that more than 25 million people in the U.S. do not speak English "very well," and would benefit from an interpreter in the doctor's office says a lot about where the healthcare and language industry together are heading!


This increase in cultural and linguistic diversity necessitates competent bilingual staff members taking on additional roles or forming partnerships with language companies to provide services for these non-English speaking individuals.

To learn more about the roles of interpreters in a medical envrionment, download our free guide today!

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