medical interpretation

Why Hospitals Must Provide Translation Services

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




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 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.


Regular Translation apps: a tool you should avoid to medical translation

Apps like Google Translate have only 57% accuracy when using medical terms



According to a study conveyed by the British Medical Journal, popular translation apps, like Google Translate, have only 57% of accuracy when interpreting medical terms to another language. Researchers used the Google Translate App and translated 10 commonly used medical statements into 26 different languages. Then, they sent these translations to native speakers so they would translate it back to English. If the final translations did not make sense or were just incorrect they were considered as wrong. Minor grammatical errors were allowed.

Out of the 26 languages evaluated (8 Western European, 5 Eastern European, 11 Asian, and 2 African), the African language had the lowest score with only 45% of accuracy. Asian languages had 46% of accuracy, followed by Eastern European with 62%. The most accurate translations came from Western European Languages with 74%. Summarizing: 150 translations were correct (or 57,7%) while 110 were wrong (or 42,3%). The least accurate language was Swahili (spoken in Tanzania and Kenya) with only 10% of accuracy. The most accurate was European Portuguese with 90% of accuracy. 

The best solution is to always request a certified professional interpreter. But to put your patient at ease and start a conversation you can always count with Canopy Speak and its 4000+ medical phrases in 15 languages.

To read the full BMJ study, click HERE.
To learn more about Canopy Speak, click HERE


The Low Ratio of Nationally Certified Medical Interpreters

The lack of qualified professionals to do medical translations is concerning, article shows.



According to an article published on Emergency Physicians, the number of Nationally Certified Medical Interpreters is only 3,000 in a universe of almost 30 million LEP patients. That means only 1 interpreter for every 10,000 patients, states Olivia Norrmén-Smith and Raviraj Patel in "Lost in Translation? Here is the map".

Even though some Hospitals may have their own internal qualification and allocation processes for interpreters, according to the article, "residents nonetheless reported great difficulty in accessing qualified in-person interpretation through approved channels."This is concerning, once the quality of healthcare of these patients relies on a good communication skill. Misunderstandings may lead to errors that could be even fatal in the worst case scenario.  

Olivia explains that the difficulties in obtaining a good certified professional, in many cases, leads to the use of unqualified interpreters or even family members. "Residents reported feeling “frustrated” and “powerless” or doing more guesswork, testing, and omitting conversations", concludes.

Read the full article HERE.