ER errors and negligence could be reduced with interpreters

When you suffer from an illness or a traumatic injury, doctors will ask you directly about your symptoms or the accident. This information is critical to diagnose your condition and determine the proper course of treatment. What if you could not communicate with your doctor because of a language barrier? If you have ever been seeking medical treatment in a non-English speaking country, you will know how frustrating this experience can be.

Non-native English speakers suffer additional risks of medical error when they enter the ER, in many cases, because of miscommunication. Experts believe that the incidence of medical negligence could be curbed with the use of interpreters. According to research at two pediatric ERs, mistakes were twice as likely when patients were non-English speakers.

There are more than 25 million residents in the United States who do not speak English as a native language and have limited proficiency. This can mean a significant number of mistakes and miscommunications in an ER or hospital scenario.

Trained interpreters can ask appropriate questions and ensure that the answers are effectively communicated to doctors and health care professionals. Mistakes were far less likely when trained interpreters were on staff, rather than relying on family members or hospital staff members with some bilingual capabilities. In addition to limiting mistakes, hospitals can also save money by minimizing unnecessary tests and treatments.

For any patient, serious medical errors or negligence can be fatal. Using trained interpreters may reduce medical negligence and prevent misdiagnosis, wrong medication, or doctor error.