Employing Professional Translators Helps Reduce Medical Errors

Hiring professional translators to help bridge the communication gap between staff and hospital patients who do not speak English, could help lead to a reduction in medical error rates.

According to the results of a new study that were recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, employing professional translators to help non-English speaking patients communicate with doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, can reduce the possibilities of miscommunication, and lower the chances of medical errors.

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed 57 situations involving non-English speaking patients and families. In all these situations, the patients and families spoke very little English. Twenty of these families were given a professional interpreter, while 27 had a non-professional translator who was either a relative or a bilingual staff member. The last 10 families had absolutely no help.

The researchers found that the possibility of medical errors was the lowest when the patients had the help of an interpreter who had a minimum of 100 hours of training. Among the translators who had more than 100 hours of training, there was an average of 12 errors.

In comparison, among those translators who had fewer than 100 hours of training, the average number of errors was 33. Among the translators who had more than 100 hours of training, there was just a 2% translation error rate, while among those who had lesser amount of training; the translation error rate was about 12%.

Interestingly enough, the researchers found that hours of training, and not years of experience, were a much bigger factor in determining the accuracy of the translation, and the reduction of medical errors. The researchers recommend hiring translators and interpreters who have a minimum of 100 hours of training to communicate with non-English speaking patients in a hospital.

The results of the study are especially vital in the state of Hawaii, which sees large volumes of international tourist traffic every year, thousands of them from non-English speaking countries.

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury

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