7 min read

The notion that a bilingual family member or friend can act as an interpreter has repeatedly proven to be a repeated problem, especially in hospital settings where sensitive information needs to be passed between a doctor and a patient. A family member or friend should never carry the burden of telling someone they love that they have a life-threatening condition or diagnosis – nor are they trained to do so.

In the US, 67.8 million people speak a language other than English at home, and that number is expected to grow.  Partnering with a trusted language service provider (LSP) is the best way to ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) patients, customers, clients, etc., receive the same treatment and access as their English-speaking counterparts.

Medical Interpreters Do More Than Interpret Spoken Language

A qualified medical interpreter does more than interpret words. They read the room, understand the meaning of what’s being said, recognize body language, and are knowledgeable of cultural nuances to ensure that nothing is lost in translation and that cultural customs aren’t barriers to care. While a family member may be hesitant to use certain language in front of a relative and work around it with different wording (especially for intimate questions), an interpreter has the training to remove themselves from the situation, being sure that everything is communicated accurately and professionally. It’s also extremely dangerous and sometimes fatal for patients not to have a professional interpreter to communicate with their healthcare provider. Medical interpreters are  fluent in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the importance of confidentiality, whereas a bilingual individual acting as an interpreter wouldn’t necessarily have the training to understand the significance of privacy regulations.

The Dangers of Not Having a Qualified Medical Interpreter

In one instance, according to NPR, a nine-year-old Vietnamese child was taken to the emergency room by her parents, suffering from symptoms of an apparent stomach flu. Her parents didn’t speak any English and the hospital did not have an interpreter to facilitate communication. Hospital staff instead spoke English to the young girl and her 16-year-old brother, sending the family home with written instructions (in English) after prescribing her a medication not typically meant for children. The instructions, unbeknownst to the parents, said for the girl to return to the hospital immediately if she experienced specified side effects. She had an adverse reaction to the medicine and died of a heart attack. The doctor and hospital paid $200,000 in damages to the unfortunate family who lost their daughter over a communication discrepancy that could have easily been avoided.

Opportunity to Help Your LEP Patients

Partnering with Language Services Associates ensures that your medical facility can connect patients and doctors to qualified medical interpreters in seconds. Interpreters are familiar with concepts and terminology from various medical specialties and are well-versed in healthcare regulations and ethical standards. Whether it’s video, over-the-phone, or in-person interpretation, partnering with LSA provides  access to over 235 languages within seconds, from a network of over 6000 interpreters who have undergone a rigorous six-step assessment process to be approved to work on our platform. Take advantage of our customizable solutions and connect with a medical interpreter who has the experience and knowledge to provide accurate communication. It saves lives.

If you have bilingual staff, our Language Assessments & Testing program can gauge the language proficiency and interpreting ability of your dual-role bilingual employees according to industry standards. This ensures compliance, reduces risk, and allows your facility to offer the highest quality care.

Learn more about LSA’s interpretation and translation solutions for healthcare today!

Contact our team at 800.305.9673 X55305 or fill out our contact form in seconds.

About LSA

Language Services Associates (LSA) offers a full suite of language interpretation solutions to help optimize the experience of limited English proficient customers and patients. Providing native language support improves the efficiency and productivity of staff, raises customer satisfaction levels, and builds loyalty. For more than 2,000 clients worldwide, in more than 230 languages, LSA provides a competitive differentiator in the healthcare, government, financial and banking, insurance, entertainment, hospitality, and manufacturing industries.