Going to a doctor can be an intimidating experience and most of us dread going to one because we are afraid of receiving bad news. Now imagine that you’re in a country where you can’t understand the language and you need access to a medical translator. You’d probably stay at home.
However, access to quality health care is important for everyone as it increases the likelihood of staying healthy and living longer. Just because people can’t speak the language in question doesn’t mean that they should not be able to enjoy good health. A medical translator is vital for these people.
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Access to a Medical Translator is Vital
Imagine what would happen if you were unable to effectively communicate and share your symptoms with your doctor. Or maybe your doctor or nurse had trouble understanding the language you speak in. Communication problems can be small and easy to overcome, or they can be potentially life-threatening.
Misdiagnosis and even death can result from misunderstandings, and practices must provide access to a medical translator to avoid such situations.
We live in a diverse world. Just look at the United States as one example. Almost 47 million American individuals above the age of five speak a foreign language at home. In fact, close to a quarter of them admit to speaking “not so good” English, making access to a medical translator in a medical situation absolutely vital.
Ask any doctor, nurse, or other hospital staff and they are likely to admit running into patients or their relatives, over the course of their career, who had trouble communicating the problem. A language barrier not only poses a risk to patient care but can also pose a significant legal risk.
Legal Implications of Not Having a Medical Translator on Site
Hospital staff, including doctors and nurses, have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that non-English speaking patients receive help from a qualified medical translator. Even the Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act entails that healthcare facilities provide means of communication to patients with limited English proficiency. Check our free guide on healthcare language service on this matter.
After witnessing many incidents where interpreters or translators were not provided for the aid of non-English speaking families, many hospitals and clinics have taken the initiative of hiring a certified medical translator or interpreter.
A medical translator or medical interpreter work with both the patient and the health expert to bridge in the communication gap. A medical translator must be proficient in one or more foreign language(s) and also understand medical terminology in multiple languages.
As the diversity of the United States grows, the need for medical translators to provide efficiency and avoid potential misunderstandings is becoming increasingly vital.
For those who have not already done so, here are the top three reasons why your hospital or clinic should hire a medical translator.
Related Post: The Demand for 100% Accuracy in Medical Translation
When treating a patient, it is important to obtain as much accurate information about their symptoms as possible. As mentioned earlier though, this can be quite challenging if you and the patient do not speak the same language.
Even if the patient has a bilingual companion with her, it is likely that she won’t understand the medical terminology or may fail to adequately explain procedures as well as you do. Only a medical translator with experience can do this.
Nevertheless, many non-English speaking patients bring along children or other relatives to translate their symptoms to the doctor. This increases the chance of miscommunication significantly as most people are not aware of medical terms and procedures.
However, a medical translator has been trained to do just that on the patient’s behalf. They are capable of obtaining the most accurate information from the patient and narrating it clearly to the attending doctor. This consequently eliminates the chances of any mishaps and allows the health experts to proceed with the medical treatment more confidently.
2. Less Stress on the Patients
No one likes being sick. And being unable to narrate your experiences is an arduous task for both the patients and their families. Unfortunately, when a medical translator is not provided to non-English speaking families, there is a chance that some medical terms are pronounced incorrectly, which may lead to an incorrect diagnosis.
For example, in one case, the girlfriend of the unconscious patient told the hospital staff that he was “intoxicado.” This led the doctors to think that the patient had an overdose of drugs, while she was trying to tell them that he was nauseated and collapsed.
Unfortunately, instead of getting a brain test done, the patient was treated for over dosage; while the two blood clots that had formed in his head were left undetected and untreated. The patient became quadriplegic (paralysis) and was awarded $71 million in settlement as well. This could have been avoided had a qualified medical translator been available.
It’s essential to have a professional third-party interpreter as they allow easy communication between both parties and also let patients relax and not worry about wrong diagnosis.
3. Improves Community Reputation
With a medical translator, patients who don’t speak English fluently will feel more welcome at your hospital or clinic because they know that their voices will be heard at your facility.
Providing a medical translator to non-English speaking families will put them at ease and make them feel comfortable about your treatment methods.
Additionally, this will demonstrate to the community that you truly care for the people around you, regardless of their ethical and cultural backgrounds.
What Do You Think?
Everyone should have access to good healthcare regardless of the race, background, or financial situation. However, sometimes this can be difficult for those with limited English proficiency.
This is why it is imperative that patients who are not fluent in English are provided with a medical translator who enables them to communicate effectively with the medical staff. This not only improves efficiency of your care but also helps prevent mishaps like the one described above.
You’ll avoid malpractice, a costly lawsuit and also gain a strong reputation as a caring and professional facility in your community.
Need medical translation or interpretation? Why not give us a call today? We’re professional, reliable and available 24/7, as well as being fully HIPAA complaint and experienced. We’re waiting to hear from you!
Audrey Throne is a mother of a 2-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about health, technology and management, and blogs frequently on these topics. After completing her masters in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, she got associated with the Brain Test Team. Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.