Study Shows ERs With Translators Less Likely to Make Errors

Posted on April 17, 2012

Communication is crucial when a patient is meeting with a healthcare professional to talk about their care plan.  But what happens when this communication is compromised?

A new study suggests that the quality of translation for non-English speaking patients in American hospitals could have a direct impact on the safety of the patient.  Published in the new issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine, the study involved researchers comparing the services of professional interpreters versus amateur interpreters or nonexistent interpreters.  They conducted their tests by looking at 57 different Spanish speaking families at two different pediatric emergency rooms.

What they found was that 12% of translation miscues committed by professional interpreters could have resulted in an error that might have negative consequences for the child being treated.  By contrast, having no interpreter or just having an amateur such as a bilingual family member relate information carried a 20 to 22% rate of consequential error.

The number of errors also tended to decrease the more experienced the translator was.  Those persons with more than 100 hours of training fared best, as could be imagined.  Not clear is how well such translators would fare against video and phone translation services, which are offered at some hospitals.  Further studies will have to be done.

As a personal injury lawyer in Riverside, I understand how important it is for a patient and a physician to be on the same page.  Miscommunication can breed errors in medical treatment, which can prevent proper healing.  I hope as a San Francisco personal injury attorney that more research can be conducted in this important area so that no one is endangered by improperly administered medicine.

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