Hospital translators can help prevent medical errors. Yet many hospitals
are not properly staffed.
U.S. hospitals that receive federal funds are required to offer some type
of translation assistance for those patients. Those services can include
a professional interpreter who works for the hospital or telephone or
video-based translation services. Yet, according to a new study, nearly
one-third of hospitals fail to provide interpreters to patients who speak
Reuters reports, the 24 million U.S. residents with limited English proficiency frequently
experience barriers to health care because of their inability to communicate
effectively with providers. Patients may not be able to clearly convey
their symptoms or may not have their questions answered adequately. “People
have a right to hear a cancer diagnosis in a language they understand,
not through hand gestures,” lead author Melody Schiaffino stated.
The study analyzed census data from 2009 to 2013 along with the availability
of translation services at 4,514 U.S. hospitals. The results revealed
that many facilities failed to provide services. Private, not-for-profit
hospitals were significantly more likely to provide professional translators
than private for-profit and government facilities.
The results are concerning. Research confirms that having professional
translators on staff can be extremely valuable. Studies have shown that
patients with limited English proficiency are more likely to remain hospitalized
longer, to suffer from misdiagnosis, and fall victim to medical errors.
A 2013 study published in the
Annals of Emergency Medicine specifically found that mistakes with the potential to result in “clinical
consequences,” such as administering the wrong medication dose,
were about twice as likely if there were no interpreters or if the translator
was an amateur.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a serious
medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.