Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The need for language interpreters in hospitals

This is not a topic in which I typically discuss on my blog but it is one that I have found to be of need lately. In thinking about healthcare and appropriate access for all, it is important to remember that there are some who struggle articulating their thoughts and ideas as english is not their first language.

With the rapid growth of social diversity not only in the US but also in the whole world, language and cultural barriers are becoming more of an issue. The problem causes worse consequences to foreign patients who are having a difficulty in communicating using the English language.

Here are some cases of tragic incidents that happened as a result of a language barrier. In 2006, a ten-month-old girl was diagnosed of a drug overdose after her parents, who happen to speak mainly Spanish, accidentally administered medicine 12.5 times more than the prescribed dosage. The local pharmacy and hospital staff, unfortunately, didn’t have anyone who can speak in Spanish to explain the correct dosage to the parents. In another case, a mother misinterpreted the doctor’s prescription and put oral amoxicillin inside the ears of her daughter suffering from otitis media. In 2014, an eighteen-year-old baseball player has been thought to suffer from drug overdose for the longest time. It was too late before the doctor discovered that he was actually having a brain hemorrhage.

As what was discussed from the previous cases, the language barrier has resulted in misdiagnosis and poor understanding of doctor's’ prescription and recommendations. Worse comes to worst, a simple illness can lead to a life-threatening condition.

In the most recent survey of 2013, there were approximately 40.4 million immigrants in America who speak foreign languages at home other than English. Roughly half or 20.4 million of these foreign speakers are considered having limited English Proficiency (LEP). The majority of this group use either Spanish or Chinese as their first language. The number of LEPs is expected to increase by more than 46% in the next five years. And according to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nine percent of the total US population is at risk of adverse consequences similar to the cases discussed above.

At the present, most of the medical institutions do not fare well in providing permanent translators inside their establishments. And even if they have, the translators are not trained to work well in the medical field. The good thing is, there are already a lot of medical interpreters that you can find online. These are well-trained medical translators capable of assisting in health consultations, medico-legal sector, and also in insurance companies. These medical interpreters, who are fluent in various international languages as well as the American Sign Language, can easily be reached 24/7. Availing medical interpreter services is not only cost-efficient but also effective in reducing the risk of misdiagnosis and failure to follow medical instructions on the patient's end.

The development of medical interpretation is a growing need in this time of rapid cultural diversification. Not only it can save lives, but it can also contribute to the healthcare community by transferring medical knowledge through various cultures. A simple reminder before hiring your own medical interpreter: choose the one that you can trust. Beware of those that aren’t certified to practice their skill in the medical field. Getting one can lead to inaccuracy and little understanding of immediate medical attention that must be provided to the patients.

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