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Importance Of Professional Medical Interpreters In A Healthcare Setting

Healthcare, Popular Brandon Choquette on Jul 23, 2015 3:00:00 PM

Interpreter in a medical setting

Professional health care interpreters are quite necessary for working with and overcoming linguistic barriers in patient relations. Since most health care organizations provide either no interpreter services, or services that are bordering on inadequate, patients who have limited English-speaking abilities often do not receive necessary health care or quality health care.

Patient care unsurprisingly suffers when patients and doctors have unsatisfactory communication. In fact, studies have also shown that if language barriers between doctors and adult patients are not conquered, misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment are far more likely to occur. In this post, we discuss how using professional interpreters shapes outcomes in healthcare settings.


What Is The Cost Of Not Hiring A Professional Interpreter?

According to an NPR article, there was a study by the American College of Emergency Physicians that analyzed interpreter errors that had clinical consequences, finding that "the error rate was significantly lower for professional interpreters than for ad hoc interpreters--12 percent as opposed to 22 percent."

Professional interpreters understand their role in the health care setting and appreciate the delicate balance-- they are trained to know when to be transparent and when to step forward.

In the long run, the costs of professional interpretation are likely to be far less than delayed care or lawsuits resulting from misdiagnosis, or mistreatment, etc. that can occur in a setting with language barriers.

Easing LEP Patient Stress & Promoting Comfort

Much of the initiative to hire qualified interpreters in healthcare is focused on making the experience less stressful for LEP patients. A trip to a hospital or a small health care clinic can be nerve-wracking, even for people who are proficient English speakers. So if you are a LEP patient, you can imagine that the experience is exponentially more intimidating. It is unquestionably important that a patient is able to converse with a medical professional in a language that they are comfortable with. This will greatly improve interactions between the patient and doctor, which can help make the patient feel more secure.

Opt For Certified Interpreters

Some hospitals and doctors use telephonic interpreting so that they can receive assistance in their desired language. However, the people who work for these language services often aren't certified to be medical interpreters, meaning that they don't have an extensive understanding of medical terminology, which can inevitably lead to issues down the road.

Interpreting Solutions For Health Care Clinics

There are a wide variety of different solutions available to small health care clinics to provide interpreting services. These solutions will have the largest impact on limited English proficiency speaking families. Ideally, a small health care clinic should seek an on site interpreter, as this promotes the best communication method for patient and provider. With on-site interpreting, the interpreter will be able to pick up on body language and cultural issues that might not be as apparent during a phone conversation. However, in situations where an on site interpreter is not available, health care clinics can opt for using telephonic interpreters. While intepreting via telephone remains a common practice, technological developments allow for more dynamic options for providing remote interpretation, like video remote interpreting. To learn more about these technologies, check out “A Brief Overview Of Language Translation & Interpreting Services.”

Seeing as small health care clinics don't have large budgets for language services, another option is to utilize bilingual staff members. Testing the proficiency of these employees language skills is absolutely crucial before allowing them to either provide care in another language or act as an interpreter. Interpreting is not an easy skill that just any bilingual person can do. Interpreting, especially in a medical environment, takes studying, practice, and an understanding of the code of conduct and ethics. To avoid costly errors in care, be sure to have bilingual employees take a language proficiency test or interpreter assessment to ensure their language skills are adequate for the additional role they are being asked to take on.

iTi | Medical Interpreters

While the task of determining appropriate language services will be largely dependent on individual circumstances, small health care leaders have a vast array of different options that can be structured to meet the needs of their patients.
iTi's dedicated and experienced teams offer a wide range of multilingual solutions for domestic and global corporations in a variety of industries. With our expansive resources, you can take advantage of communication services on a global scale, creating, managing, and distributing your content in any format. You are welcome to contact us to request a quote for your interpreting needs or follow the link below for free access to a decision tree to help you decide the best course of action for your bilingual staff members.


 Last Updated December-12-2016