JAMA Internal Medicine: A Perspectives piece on language barriers

One of the "Perspectives" pieces published in the April 2015 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine highlights the importance of working to remove language barriers. The piece reviews a patient who was on duplicative medication because of a miscommunication due to a language barrier. Had this mistake not been caught, the patient would have received a permanent pacemaker when unnecessary.

As physicians, we use information from conversations with the patient and family and combine it with evidence to come to a diagnosis and plan of care. Language barriers create situations with a higher risk of errors, both under-treatment and over-treatment. Removing language barriers and speaking with patients in their own language can help patients receive the care they need and, equally importantly, not receive the treatments they do not need.
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