The Link Between Medical Interpretation and Patient Safety

The Link Between Medical Interpretation and Patient Safety | Telelanguage

Medical interpretation and patient safetyWhat is the link between medical interpretation and patient safety? Improving patient care for Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients is a top priority for hospitals and healthcare systems in the United States. Trained medical interpreters provide necessary communication between health care professionals and LEP patients that increases the quality of patient care, increases patient satisfaction, and supports patient safety.

The Link Between Medical Interpretation and Patient Safety: 10 Facts to Know

1. About 21% of the United States population does not have high English proficiency –US Census Bureau.

2. 9% of the United States population is at risk for an adverse patient safety event as the result of a language discrepancy – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

3. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic-origin population increased by 43%, which accounts for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total population of the United States in that decade.

4. Since 2000, the Asian population has increased by 43.3%, making it the fastest growing major racial group.

5. Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be readmitted for certain chronic conditions than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

6. LEP patients have greater difficulty understanding discharge instructions, including how to manage their condition, take their medications, recognize symptoms that should prompt a return to care, and know when to follow up. – NCBI

7. Hospital readmission rates can be a financial risk for health care systems, who may receive penalties for excessive readmission rates. In addition to penalties, readmission rates can significantly impact hospital CMS star ratings.

8. In 2015, Medicare fined a record 2,610 hospitals with readmission penalties. – Kaiser Health News

9. Trained medical interpreters can reduce errors in care for patients with limited English proficiency.

10. The odds of a clinically significant error were about 75% lower in visits with trained in-person interpreters compared to ad hoc interpreters.


Medical Interpretation and Patient Safety: Types of Physical Harm Experienced From Adverse Events by English-Speaking and LEP Patients

Medical Interpretation and Patient Safety: Types of Physical Harm Experienced From Adverse Events by English-Speaking and LEP Patients


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that in addition to high readmission rates, racial and ethnic minorities (including LEP patients) also present a higher degree of certain health-related concerns, including:

  • An increased risk of longer stays at the hospital
  • Higher rates of anxiety and depression
  • Less access to primary care providers
  • Inadequate follow-up care after discharge
  • Multiple co-morbidities
  • Socioeconomic pressure (e.g. underinsurance, social isolation, housing and food security issues, lack of access to transportation, lack of employment opportunities)


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Research has found the use of professional medical interpreters to positively impact patient care. In fact, “Use of professional interpreters is associated with improved clinical care more than is use of ad hoc interpreters, and professional interpreters appear to raise the quality of clinical care for LEP patients to approach or equal that for patients without language barriers.”

How Telelanguage Can Help

Telelanguage provides healthcare organizations with language access solutions to easily integrate a certified medical interpreter into any healthcare setting – 24/7, 365 days a year.

Video Remote Interpreting

Video Remote Interpreting is an on-demand interpretation solution that bridges the gap between over-the-phone interpreting and on-site interpreting. It can also be extremely cost-effective in healthcare settings because no minimum hours or mileage reimbursement are needed to gain access to the medical interpreter (as might occur with an in-person appointment).

On-site Interpretation

Medical situations can cause stress for anyone, but when there is a language barrier, having a qualified medical interpreter present can greatly reduce the stress for the LEP patient. When a situation arises where you need an on-site interpreter fast, Telelanguage can have a certified medical interpreter at a location in as little as 30 minutes.

Telephonic Interpretation

Over-the-Phone Interpretation is an on-demand, remote interpreting service that offers a fast response when urgent or unexpected language barriers comes up. Telephonic interpreting allows medical professionals to connect to a medical interpreter in seconds. Telelanguage’s proprietary technology ensures that there are no outages during national emergencies and allows professionals to connect to certified medical interpreters in over 300 languages – faster than any other vendor (average connect time is 7 seconds).

Translation Services

Medical documents and patient care instructions can be confusing for a patient who does not speak English well. Documents must be provided in the language preferred by the patient. Telelanguage has the capacity to translate documents from English to over 100 target languages and vice versa.
In healthcare, even the smallest inaccuracy can have devastating consequences. Medical interpretation and patient safety are the links that allow healthcare professionals to provide the highest quality of patient care for their LEP patients. When every second counts, you need a language services partner you can trust. Excellence in medical interpreting is a win for everyone.

Want to learn more about how to improve patient communication with medical interpretation? Need help achieving or maintain compliance with government standards? Telelanguage provides the highest-quality language services for healthcare organizations nationwide. Our interpreters are medically certified, superior-trained, and ready to speak in over 300 languages. Contact us for a free quote.

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