Language Proficiency and Adverse Events in US Hospitals: A Pilot Study:

Objective: To examine differences in the characteristics of adverse events between English speaking patients and patients with limited English proficiency in US hospitals.  

Results: About 49.1% of limited English proficient patient adverse events involved some physical harm whereas only 29.5% of adverse events for patients who speak English resulted in physical harm. Of those adverse events resulting in physical harm, 46.8% of the limited English proficient patient adverse events had a level of harm ranging from moderate temporary harm to death, compared with 24.4% of English speaking patient adverse events. The adverse events that occurred to limited English proficient patients were also more likely to be the result of communication errors (52.4%) than adverse events for English speaking patients (35.9%).

Conclusions: Language barriers appear to increase the risks to patient safety. It is important for patients with language barriers to have ready access to competent language services. Providers need to collect reliable language data at the patient point of entry and document the language services provided during the patient–provider encounter.

Communities Are Seeing a Rapid Increase in Language Barriers:

In 2013,  25.1 million people living in the United States were considered LEP, which equates to 8% of the population not being able to speak, read or write English fluently. Healthcare facilities are witnessing first hand the implications caused by language barriers on a daily basis. Providing high quality healthcare to limited English proficient (LEP) patients starts with proper communication. Patient-provider communication is vital in order for patients to be cared for and treatment to be administered. A single misunderstood word can have major consequences, every interaction must be completely precise and accurate. Not providing interpretation services in medical settings can lead to patient harm and even fatal consequences. Interpretation services provide a link that is able to bridge language gaps and ensure patients are receiving the care they need despite present language barriers.

Combating The Dangers Associated with Language Barriers:

Everyone’s life is important, regardless of the language they speak, interpretation services eliminate the risk of misunderstandings that can be potentially life threatening when language barriers are faced in healthcare settings. Providing interpretation services ensure LEP patients have a clear understanding of their health and the medical information being conveyed to them. Interpretation services also allow LEP patients the ability to accurately voice their symptoms and concerns to medical staff. Effective communication reduces room for errors to occur and promotes understanding for all individuals involved. All hospitals should acquire a partnership with a reputable language service company (LSC) in order to gain access to experienced and qualified medical interpreters. Interpretation services such as on-site interpretation, telephone interpretation and video remote interpreting (VRI) are highly effective solutions helping combat negative effects associated with language barriers. Aiming to provide strong language access training to healthcare staff and educating them on the importance of providing interpretation services to LEP patients can help in the reduction of substandard care faced by LEP patients.  

It’s imperative for patients to understand what’s going on in a medical situation, how medicines work, treatment plans, the prognosis, medical history, information regarding surgery and tests. This is only possible through the utilization of professional interpretation services. Developing a partnership with a language service company can greatly benefit your healthcare facility in providing quality care to your LEP patients. Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a language service company with over 20 years experience providing professional interpretation services. They have access to qualified medical interpreters available in over 350 languages and dialects. Don’t allow your hospital to fall victim to a dilemma that can easily be handled and prevented with ease and confidence. Interpretation services can ensure all patients are provided with optimal care.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 20 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at

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