Recently published research shows that the availability of professional interpretation services greatly reduces the incidence of medical mistakes among non-English speaking emergency room patients.
03, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Open communication is essential in a
doctor-patient relationship. Doctors need to be well-informed in order
to make prudent treatment decisions, and patients have to be kept in the
loop to remain active and effective participants in their own care.
But what happens when there's a language barrier in a
medical situation? According to a new study, effectively bridging a
language gap between doctors and patients can significantly reduce emergency room errors.
For Non-English Speaking Patients, Medical Errors Twice As Likely Without Professional Translation
The new report, published in the Annals of Emergency
Medicine, followed conduct at two pediatric emergency rooms. Of the 57
primarily Spanish-speaking families seen in the emergency rooms during
the period studied, 20 had help from a professional interpreter; ten had
no translation help, and 27 had a non-professional or "ad hoc"
interpreter (for instance, a family member or a bilingual member of the
Among those with access to a professional interpreter, 12
percent of translation errors -- like adding or omitting certain words
or phrases -- could have had what the study's authors referred to as
"clinical consequences" (Clinical consequences would include any mistake
that could impact the patient's health, for instance, administering the
wrong medication or the wrong dose of the correct medication).
Translation errors with the potential to cause real-world
harm were almost twice as likely when there was no interpreter or when
using an ad hoc interpreter: 20 to 22 percent of translation errors in
this context posed a risk of clinical consequences.
Serious errors were least common when professional
interpreters were well prepared for the task at hand, with 100 or more
hours of training. Among interpreters that had been trained for 100 plus
hours, just two percent of translation slips had the potential to cause
harm; however, very few training programs for medical interpreters
provide at least 100 hours of instruction.