Although English is the most commonly used language, there is an ever-rising number of different foreign languages spoken within the U.S. Among them, Spanish and Chinese rank the highest (45 million speakers and 3 million speakers, respectively).
The increasing number of people speaking foreign languages is coupled with a population of individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). If these individuals request healthcare at any point in time, they will need language services in order to interact with doctors or nurses.
This is especially important as it can be life-threatening when patients and doctors don’t understand one another. Language barriers also result in misunderstandings leading to re-admittance of patients, which is costly and time consuming.
Just as important, it’s considered discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to refuse or delay medical attention to a patient due to language barriers. Failure to provide adequate and professional interpreter services for healthcare professionals and patients can result in financial hits if an institution relies on monetary aid from Medicare or Medicaid.
When are Interpreter Services for Healthcare Required?
Medical interpreters are required in a variety of healthcare settings – from surgery to senior care. Interpreting services in hospitals specifically are usually for situations involving patient visits, emergency room situations and in pharmacies explaining prescriptions to patients.
There are a few ways a hospital or other medical institution can implement interpreter services. The most popular include:
- On-Site Medical Interpreters
- Telephonic Interpreting
- Video Remote Interpreting
Each has its pros and cons. Many institutions requiring interpreter services for healthcare patients will opt for telephonic interpreters due to their convenience; however, on-site interpreters are generally considered to be more accurate and better received by some LEP patients.
Video remote interpreting is usually used for Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients who speak ASL or another form of Sign Language.
it is important to note that medical interpreting services should be contracted from certified freelancers, or through an interpreting agency with a large network of certified professionals. Using untrained individuals as interpreters can lead to poor interpretation, and potentially dangerous situations.
What Can Happen Without A Medical Interpreter?
A medical interpreter not only facilitates communication between patients and healthcare professionals who do not speak the same language, but he or she also helps navigate sensitive cultural barriers. This can help alleviate misunderstandings due to:
- Differing opinions of medical treatments
- Misunderstandings on how to take prescribed medicines (including whether or not the patient should cease taking it once their symptoms go away)
- Lack of knowledge regarding certain health terms, treatments, or diseases
There are many barriers to gaining proper access to healthcare faced by LEP individuals that are eliminated with an interpreter. Simply providing interpreter services for healthcare can, if nothing else, help increase the rate at which LEP individuals actively seek medical attention.
In need of Interpreter Services for Healthcare? Language Connections Can Help!
At Language Connections we have been providing high quality medical interpreting and translation services for over 20 years, as well as training aspiring medical interpreters using a curriculum created with Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare.
We rely on a wide network of professional interpreters, allowing us to provide coverage for patients and medical professionals across the country. Our interpreters are proficient in the target languages you need, and have undergone medical and healthcare training, or else have extensive experience in the healthcare field. This enables them to accurately interpret highly technical medical language to patients and doctors.