What Is Language Interpretation In Healthcare?

Language interpreting is the process of converting one spoken language to another, whereas translation is the conversion of one written language to another. In the healthcare world, doctors, nurses, caretakers, and others regularly interact directly with patients and their loved ones in the hospital.
To do this, they must know how to communicate with people who are not necessarily locals or English speakers. Reducing communication barriers as much as possible is one of the most critical aspects of providing healthcare. It improves the quality of care provided to the patient, diagnosis, and prescription. Because of this, today we will look into language interpretation in healthcare, the reasons why it’s needed, steps to provide it, and issues that may arise.
process of converting one spoken language to another, whereas translation is the conversion of one written language to another.
process of converting one spoken language to another, whereas translation is the conversion of one written language to another. Photo credit: Unsplash

Reasons Why We Need Professional Interpreters In The Healthcare System

There is a massive gap between conversational understanding of a language and technical knowledge related to health and well-being. This is why it is best that a professional interpreter is always present in cases of non-local patients. There is an increasing need for language interpreters in the healthcare sphere. These are the main reasons professional interpreters are needed in the healthcare system.

Ensures accuracy and impartiality

Having a language interpreter present while treating patients and communicating with their loved ones can significantly reduce the amount of misinformation or misunderstanding. Health problems are complicated to explain, and it is best to explain them to patients and others in a language they understand well to give them a complete, accurate picture.

Minimizes legal and safeguarding risks

Misinterpretation of clinical information can lead to legal suits. Patients and their families must thoroughly understand the courses of treatment advised or medications prescribed to make a decision with full consent.
In cases of abuse like domestic disputes or human trafficking, the abuser might step in and communicate due to the victim’s inability to speak English. In such situations, an interpreter must be present to get both sides of the story and understand what the victim has to say.

Allows loved ones to support the patient

Members of immigrant families, especially younger ones with a good grip on the English language, are made to spend a lot of time filing paperwork and taking care of documentation. If there was a professional interpreter present, the family member could be spending time with the patient instead of feeling the pressure of handling interpretation.

Builds trust with the patient

Communicating with the patient in his or her local language can build trust with them and make it easier for them to communicate how they feel, what they need, etc.

Steps To Ensure Quality Interpretation

Language interpretation within the healthcare system may be divided into different sections or parts. Here are the different steps to provide it:

Identify the patient’s preferred language

The first step in providing professional language interpretation services is identifying the patient’s preferred language. If they cannot communicate this verbally, the doctor or nurse can use a language chart or other visual tools to understand it.

Request an interpreter

The next step would be to request an interpreter. One can be found at one of the various language translation services that offer assistance in the required language. Sometimes, factors like gender, trauma, mental health, and other vulnerabilities are used to determine which interpreter to choose.

Brief the interpreter and let them prepare

Once an interpreter has been selected, it is time for the doctor, nurse, or hospital administration to brief the interpreter on the situation, including health topics and technical terminology to be communicated.

Offer language services

Finally, the interpreter is introduced to the patient, and a short explanation of why their services are required is given. The interpreter may then go ahead with communicating everything required and asking questions to the doctor or caretakers on behalf of the patient.

Get feedback on the services provided

Once everything is wrapped up, hospital commissioners must get feedback from patients or their loved ones to help the interpreters improve their services. Doctors and caretakers are encouraged to contribute to this process as well.

Interpretation Issues in Healthcare

Despite all the work done in the language interpretation and translation service industry, there are a few problems that need to be recognized and eliminated. Here are some of the problems with interpretation in the healthcare system.
  • Budget and time limitations
  • Interpreters are skilled in a few languages
  • The certification process is too long and difficult to get through
  • Ethical challenges with doctor-patient confidentiality
Concluding Thoughts
Despite these unavoidable but fixable problems, medical interpreters play an essential role within the healthcare system. They make sure that every patient who comes to get treated at a hospital gets the healthcare they deserve with ease and comfort. Language interpretation and translation must be prioritized by the state, and more resources should be directed toward language workers in the industry.
Author’s Bio: Eric Wyatt
Eric Wyatt is a healthcare worker and researcher who has been in the industry for over five years. His experience as a researcher has varied from researching healthcare for immigrants to technical translation in healthcare. He often writes deep dives into the healthcare world that are published in respected medical journals worldwide.

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