What role does a qualified medical interpreter play in health care? Going to the doctor can be an intimidating experience for anyone. But imagine there is a language barrier between you and the medical staff that keeps you from describing your medical symptoms or giving your medical history. For 25.1 million limited-English proficient American residents, this is a reality.
Healthcare regulations like Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act require medical providers who receive federal funding to provide qualified interpreters. As the United States continues to become more linguistically and culturally diverse, the demand is rising for qualified medical interpreter professionals to help healthcare teams and patients communicate effectively.
What Makes a Qualified Medical Interpreter?
A qualified medical interpreter will demonstrate 4 key competencies:
- Language proficiency in both the source and target languages being interpreted
- The ability to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially
- Proficiency in specific medical terminology and vocabulary
- Adhere to strict ethical codes of conduct
Medical Interpreter: Code of Ethics for Interpreting in Health Care
The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) outlines a code of ethics for interpreting in health care. Find the full document here.
- The interpreter treats as confidential, within the treating team, all information
learned in the performance of their professional duties, while observing relevant
requirements regarding disclosure.
- The interpreter strives to render the message accurately, conveying the
content and spirit of the original message, taking into consideration its
- The interpreter strives to maintain impartiality and refrains from counseling,
advising or projecting personal biases or beliefs.
- The interpreter maintains the boundaries of the professional role, refraining
from personal involvement.
- The interpreter continuously strives to develop awareness of his/her own and other
(including biomedical) cultures encountered in the performance of their professional
- The interpreter treats all parties with respect.
- When the patient’s health, well-being, or dignity is at risk, the interpreter may be
justified in acting as an advocate. Advocacy is understood as an action taken on behalf
of an individual that goes beyond facilitating communication, with the intention of
supporting good health outcomes. Advocacy must only be undertaken after careful and
thoughtful analysis of the situation and if other less intrusive actions have not resolved
- The interpreter strives to continually further his/her knowledge and skills.
- The interpreter must at all times act in a professional and ethical manner.
Core Values of the Code of Ethics for Health Care Interpreters
The National Code of Ethics for Health Care Interpreters by NCIHC is based on three core values:
beneficence, fidelity, and respect for the importance of culture.
Beneficence – Like other members in health care professions, a qualified medical interpreter has as their essential obligation and duty to support the health and well-being of the patient.
Fidelity – A qualified medical interpreter remains faithful to the original message while interpreting from the source language to the target language – without adding to, omitting from, or distorting the original message.
Respect for the Importance of Culture – Interpreters in healthcare settings must uphold their respect for the influence of culture and cultural differences when interpreting from a source language to a target language.
4 Key Competencies of a Qualified Medical Interpreter (Infographic)
What Difference Does a Qualified Medical Interpreter Make in Health Care?
Studies from Health Services Research have found the use of a qualified medical interpreter to have a positive impact on patient care. “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.” Utilizing a qualified medical interpreter has been associated with:
- Higher quality of clinical care
- Improved care
- Higher levels of patient satisfaction
- Fewer communication errors
- A greater comprehension of diagnoses and follow up care instructions
- Lower rates of readmission
The Telelanguage Interpreter Certification Program (TICP), is a national interpreter certification training program for Over-the-Phone and Face-to-Face interpreting for all industries, including healthcare, education, government, law enforcement, 9-1-1 call centers, financial institutions, business/commercial, and social community services.
In addition to TICP training, Telelanguage also provides medical certification for our interpreters. We require 120 Hours of Academic Medical Training & Healthcare Interpreting Ethics, which is well above the National Board of Medical Interpreters Requirements.
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 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).
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.
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).
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.
Telelanguage provides the highest-quality language services for healthcare organizations nationwide. Our interpreters are medically certified and superior-trained. Contact us for a free quote.
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