A research study done at two Massachusetts pediatric emergency rooms found that when Spanish-speaking families have access to a professional interpreter, critical errors like wrong medication doses decrease significantly. But mistakes are twice as likely to happen if the interpreter is a family member, bilingual hospital staff member or other non-professional.
The study, reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that using a professional interpreter decreased translation errors (like adding or omitting a word) by 12 percent. Those errors can have major health consequences.
“The findings document that interpreter errors of potential clinical consequence are significantly more likely to occur when there is an ‘ad hoc’ or no interpreter, compared with a professional interpreter,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Glenn Flores of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. (Click here to learn more about the difference between ad hoc and professional interpreters)
But how frequently are professional interpreters needed? Well, consider this: about 25 million people in the U.S. have limited English skills according to The Hartford Courant (4/19/12, page A13).
U.S. law requires that hospitals that receive federal funds must offer interpretation help to patients. Other studies have indicated that professional interpretation improves health care and cuts costs by avoiding unnecessary medical tests, for example. To learn more about how professional interpreters greatly improve patient experience, download our free white paper by following the link below.