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Why Hospitals Must Provide Translation Services

Only 23% of U.S. teaching hospitals train physicians to work with interpreters, study says

 

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According to the 2010 U.S. census, 24.5 million Americans (8% of the population) require language assistance to access social and medical services. Federal civil rights laws state that hospitals must provide all people with equal access to care, regardless of “race, color, or national origin.” That’s the phrase used in Title VI, the first law pertaining to professional interpreters. Also, in Executive Order 13166, President Bill Clinton implicitly stated any organization receiving federal funds—like Medicaid or Medicare—must provide “meaningful language access.” If they don’t, facilities are supposed to lose those funds.

But this doesn’t always happen. Chris Carter, president of the Association of Language Companies, the U.S. told slate.com that hospitals rarely become proactively compliant: “Unfortunately, member companies of the ALC have noticed in recent years that healthcare organizations usually wait until they are audited by the [Department of Justice] and found non-compliant with [Affordable Care Act] Section 1557 or other laws before they shift from ad hoc service provision to implementing an organized Language Access Plan.”

In another article by Erika Williams from HMS, she says that "when patients are offered the complimentary assistance of medical interpreters, fewer than half of emergency department visits by patients with limited English proficiency took advantage of an interpreter service." According to the Medical Doctor, only 23% of U.S. teaching hospitals train physicians to work with interpreters, and this training is usually optional.


Sources: Harvard Medical School | Slate.com