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  • Foto del escritorMaría Palomares Tarí


Communication barriers can lead to a variety of problems in countless occasions. But had you ever thought about the importance of avoiding communication errors between a healthcare practitioner and patient when one or both are speaking a second language?

The primary task of a medical interpreter is to bridge the communication gap between patients and healthcare providers to make sure that the patients are given accurate diagnoses and prescribed the right medication and treatment.

However, too often, bilingual employees or family members act as ad hoc medical interpreters in place of trained professionals, without realizing that the chances of misinterpreting are higher with untrained individuals.

It becomes particularly risky for various reasons:

- Medical interpreters have training and experience, which family members and other health professionals may lack – they may be completely unfamiliar with medical terminology!

- Interpreters should be neutral and passive, which may prove difficult for family.

- A family member may also give you their own version of events, and their emphasis may skew the whole consultation. It can also be difficult to check the veracity of the interpretation, which could lead to a misdiagnosis.

- With a family member any culturally sensitive or personal information runs the risk of being omitted or altered to avoid embarrassment.

So, what is it that medical interpreters can do for patients and practitioners?

  • Improve understanding and compliance at each step the patient takes through their healthcare journey reducing the risk of misunderstandings and misdiagnoses (which could result in repeat visits, longer hospital stays, or increased expenses).

  • Communicating with patients through them removes any emotional bias or additional family trauma and ensures the correct information is shared. This may be very useful when patients need to make important decisions while suffering from pain or anxiety or may have complicated diagnoses or treatments.

  • Help reduce the risk of misdiagnosis, inadequate informed consent, and the inability to follow treatment plans (which could lead to adverse results, lawsuits, and increased expenses).

That is why it is of the utmost importance to use medical interpreters in order to provide the same quality of care to all patients regardless of their preferred language. Besides, medical interpreting along with medical translation is critical to help boost the medical industry.

These services help ensure that every person, despite the difference in the languages they speak, can have equal access to healthcare. And let’s keep in mind that miscommunication in the healthcare sector can be, definitely, life-threatening.


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