Interpreting service as well as translation service is mandatory in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare organizations in the United States, especially those institutions that receive funding from the federal government.
With the continuing rise of the immigrant population in the country, more and more languages are spoken across the nation, prompting the government to officially address the issue of language access. This means that healthcare institutions must provide translators and interpreters who can interpret or translate the most number of languages spoken by the communities they serve.
Many instances and incidences have proven the value of having translators and/or interpreters available in their healthcare offices. The bottomline is that it has been proven time and again that making language services available helps reduce the inequalities in the access to healthcare and improve the quality of care Native Americans and patients with limited English speaking skills receive from healthcare providers.
Improving Patient-Provider Communication
One of the main deterrents why Native Americans and people who have limited English proficiency (LEP) from seeking and receiving primary and preventive care is the language gap. Doctors and nurses mostly speak English, which means that they cannot communicate effectively. Adverse effects to their health can result from the language gap, including:
- Poor comprehension and knowledge of the diagnosis
- Lack of adherence to the prescribed treatment
- Heightened risk of medical errors
- Poor health outcomes, such as longer stay in the hospital
Thus, it is no longer surprising that patients have consistently low satisfaction level if they belong to this group.
On the other hand, when professional medical interpreting services are available, there is a reduction in the adverse effects of the lack of effective communication. Medical interpreting services in clinics and hospitals resulted in:
- Less occurrence of errors in communication
- Enhanced patient understanding and knowledge of their health issue, its diagnosis and recommended treatment
- Improved access to medical services
- Increased frequency in visiting healthcare facilities
- Reduced disparity in the dispense of health services between English speakers and LEPs
- Improved adherence to recommended treatment
- Improved doctor-patient satisfaction rate
Issues with Language Access Programs in the Healthcare Setting
The issues of communication gaps between patients who are hard of hearing and those who are not proficient in the English language have been long-standing. While there are laws that strictly mandate the provision of language services in healthcare facilities across the nation, the implementation is slow, especially in rural communities.
It boils down to the availability of qualified medical interpreters for the entire healthcare industry and the availability of interpreters in minor languages. Slow implementation of the language access program may be due to cost and time constraints.
Advantages of Having Interpreting Services
There are many regulations under the Affordable Care Act particularly under Section 1557. Under the law, ad hoc interpreters including children, friends and other family members of an LEP patient are no longer allowed except in emergencies. Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities are required by law to provide free access to language services. Hospitals, clinics and various other healthcare facilities and organizations are required to provide interpreters for up to the 15 most spoken languages in the community the hospital serves.
- The mandate is beneficial to both parties – healthcare providers and patients – because it removes the risk of misdiagnosis. When the communication between doctor and patient is facilitated by a medical interpreter, the outcomes are positive. The correlation between language comprehension and communication and patient satisfaction and safety is already established.
- When there is an interpreter present the quality of healthcare services improves. The chances of misdiagnosis is reduced or omitted. The hospital stay of LEP patients is reduced and their chances of readmission are lowered.
- Providing medical interpreters and translators in your healthcare facility ensures your compliance with regulations. It maximizes your hospital's reimbursements and increases the trust and satisfaction of patients, which conversely improves your hospital's financial health. The financial health of your facility is influenced by your compliance with directives from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), HIPAA, the American with Disabilities Act, The Joint Commission and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
- Medical interpreters are trained in the process of interpreting as well as in medical terminology and procedures. They are familiar with the setup of healthcare facilities. They facilitate communication between the doctor and patient to ensure complete understanding. They are fluent in the source and target languages and understand cultural differences and beliefs, which greatly help in putting patients at ease.
- Trained medical interpreters remain unbiased while providing accurate translation of the communication exchange. There will be times when a patient has to make a decision regarding his/her medical condition. Emotional attachment, cultural and traditional beliefs of family members interpreting for the LEP patient may interfere with a patient's decision. This type of situation is eliminated when there is a professional medical interpreter present. The interpreter can alleviate the patient's anxiety and help the doctor explain all the required information, from diagnosis, treatment, required medical procedures, hospital stay (if necessary), medication, checkups and rehabilitation. The medical interpreter removes family trauma and emotional bias and ensures that the patient understands every information the doctor shares.
- Medical interpreters reduce or remove the risks of inadequate informed consent, misdiagnosis and the inability of the patient to follow the plans for their treatment. Because the patient and family members fully understand the medical issues related to the LEP patient, the risk of additional expenses for the patient and the facility, adverse results due to misdiagnosis and lawsuits are avoided.
- When patients fully understand their medical condition, their worry and anxiety are reduced. When patients understand the situation and acknowledge their condition, their satisfaction with medical services and medical providers improves as well. Their comfort level increases, which helps in improving the relationship between the patient and the doctor.
- When comprehension is better, unnecessary tests and procedures are eliminated. It is easy for misunderstanding, misdiagnosis and miscalculation to occur when the doctor and patient do not understand each other. With the help of a medical interpreter, miscommunication is reduced and the patient as well as the facility are saved from additional procedures and tests that may cost more but are not truly required, adding more pressure and anxiety to the patient.
- It has been noted that when there is no interpreter present, LEP patients or those who are deaf and hearing impaired tend to be readmitted to the hospital within weeks after discharge. They also tend to stay in the hospital longer. These situations increase the burden on hospital staff as well as increase patient care's cost for the facility itself.
- Medical interpreters are required to ensure that patients’ information remain private. They are trained to be impartial and objective. They are not likely to disclose the patient's medical information. While the doctor has the right to provide the patients with all the necessary information regarding their treatment, medical procedures and tests, the decision of the patient should not be influenced by the doctor. The role of the medical interpreter is to convey accurately and in full, all the information the doctor provides so that the patient fully comprehends the situation.
However, the final decision regarding treatment plans still remains with the patients. As long as they understand the situation, the risk of suing the doctor or the hospital later for malpractice, misdiagnosis and other issues can be eliminated.
These are the top reasons why your hospital should immediately implement the language access program mandated by law. You can find language services providers who specialize in medical interpreting. It would be better if they were certified. The important consideration is their experience and their linguistic expertise. Comply with the mandate regarding the language access program. Likewise, you should be up to date with the reforms regarding the regulation, which will keep your hospital on the right track.
Choose the Right Medical Interpreting Service
You do not have to go through an elimination process when choosing the best medical interpreting service provider for your hospital. Just give Day Interpreting, Inc. a call at 1-800-969-6853. You can also send an email at Contact us. We have worked with several healthcare institutions and facilities in the United States and overseas, providing professional medical interpreting and medical translation. Day Interpreting is HIPAA-compliant so we understand the requirements of medical facilities and follow the required protocol. Our native speaking medical interpreters are well-experienced subject matter experts who are highly trained in the rudiments of medical interpreting.
Get in touch with us and let us discuss the needs of your hospital to provide the required language access programs. We can have on-site interpreters, over-the-phone interpreters and video remote interpreters. Providing accurate medical translation is our forte, which will naturally complement your hospital's provision of the best healthcare services. Get in touch with us anytime, as we are open 24/7, 365 days of the year.