medical interpreter

Not Providing a Medical Interpreter Can Result in Detrimental Outcomes:

Laws have been established in order to prevent limited English proficient (LEP) individuals in America from being put at risk of receiving poor patient care due to language barriers. Miscommunication and using unqualified bilingual staff, friends and family members to act as a medical interpreter has resulted in many occasions where LEP patients faced additional injury, inaccurate diagnosis, lengthy hospital stays, reoccurring hospital visits and even death. Despite the laws being passed some healthcare facilities are still neglecting to offer a medical interpreter when caring for LEP patients.

4,586 hospitals were surveyed in 2016 by the American Hospital Association. The following was reported, only 56% of hospitals surveyed offered at least some sort of language services, which is a very tiny improvement over the 54% recorded five years prior. In another survey during 2008, physicians reported having difficulty communicating with LEP patients because of language and cultural barriers. James D. Reschovsky, PHD, senior health researcher for the Center for Studying Health System Change stated, “The challenges physicians face in providing quality healthcare to all of their patients will keep mounting as the U.S. population continues to diversify and the minority population grows. Efforts to reduce the language and cultural disparities face cost and reimbursement issues. The tools most commonly adopted tend to be the least expensive to implement.”

The Following Are Examples of When Poor Interpretation Has Had a Detrimental Effect on LEP Patients:

In a 2010 report conducted by the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health and National Health Law Program, found that there were 1,373 malpractice claims where at minimum 35 of the cases were directly linked to inadequate language access.

Example 1. Gabriela Jenicek, the director of language services at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, remembered an incident with a woman who was 8 months pregnant and who had an extremely high-risk pregnancy. The clinic who did not provide a medical interpreter allowed the woman’s sister-in-law to interpret the medical information from the doctor. Medical staff told the woman her baby was at risk of heart damage, however her sister-in-law never managed to interpret the information to the pregnant woman. After preparing for the baby, decorating the nursery and celebrating at the baby shower, the woman went into labor. Once arriving at the hospital, Jenicek recalls, “She had to be told the child would not make it, she had no time to prepare.”

Example 2. A 9 year old Vietnamese girl was rushed to the hospital with a severe stomach ache which was thought to be some sort of stomach flu. Her parents spoke no English and a medical interpreter was not utilized. A medical interpreter was not even called when the doctor decided to prescribe a medication only used by adults to the ill child. The hospital staff communicated to the girl and her 16 year old brother in English and were sent home with instructions written in English stating to return to the hospital as soon as possible if the girl experiences specific side effects. The young girl suffered an adverse reaction to the drug, had a heart attack and died.

Always Provide a Medical Interpreter When Administering Healthcare to LEP Patients:

Avoiding situations like these can be successfully accomplished by partnering with a professional language service company (LSC) who offers various solutions and methods to easily access a professional medical interpreter. LSC’s offer on-site interpretation, over-the-phone (OPI) interpretation as well as video remote interpreting (VRI) to accommodate any specific language or dialect needed. Eliminate potential life threatening risks caused by not providing a medical interpreter when treating LEP patients by contacting Niki’s Int’l Ltd., a LSC here to aid you in abiding by the law and providing optimal healthcare to LEP patients.  

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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