Medical Interpretations: How It Can Impact Doctors and Patients
The relationship between doctor and patient can significantly impact the latter’s life. Patients who feel understood by their doctors are more engaged with their treatment compared to those who are not treated in the same manner.
The patient and healthcare provider’s ability to understand each other is more indispensable during a medical emergency. A misunderstanding can result in irreversible consequences.
Effective communication between patients and doctors is often taken for granted.
There is much to be done to ensure that patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) can get medical translation servicesEffective communication between patients and doctors is often taken for granted.
There is much to be done to ensure that patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) can get medical translation services.
Side Effects of Not Having Medical Interpreters
NPR, an independent media outlet, published the story of a Spanish couple who struggled to understand their doctor’s orders due to the absence of a medical interpreter.
Their experience justifies the need for medical interpreters.
Marlon Munoz works in radiology and also serves as a volunteer medical translator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Munoz shared how he had to pass a breast cancer medical diagnosis to his wife, Aibi Perez. Munoz acted as the interpreter between his Spanish wife and her non-Spanish doctor.
This is where Munoz struggled to deliver the diagnosis to his wife.
The absence of a professional medical interpreter added more burden during Aibi Perez’s chemotherapy.
She was made to choose between different medications or surgery.
Withouta Spanish medical translator to explain the pros and cons of each option, the couple only decided based on the information they understood.
The complex and incomprehensible medical terminologies were vaguely understood.
All these led to a year-long physical and emotional pain for Perez.
Eventually, after trying different medications, Perez decided to undergo surgery.
After many years, the couple still suffers from that devastating experience.
If only there were qualified medical translators, the process would have been less burdensome and painful.
The couple’s story, along with many others, shows the significance of medical translators and their role in optimizing the mental and physical health of LEP patients.
More often, medical visits need medical translation services aside from interpretation services.
This is particularly prevalent among patients who flew to the US from South America to get a second opinion.
These patients also fly to the US to have their medical cases reviewed.
In either case, hospitals need certified translations of surgery outcomes, lab results, and other medical reports to properly treat or examine these foreign patients.
A cost-benefit analysis of seeking a professional medical translator has not been done.
Then again, many studies already established the link between fewer readmissions and malpractice claims and translation service availability.
For example, in 2017, a study revealed that academic hospitals could save $161,404 monthly by avoiding readmissions when their patients received continuous access to medical interpretations.
It’s the doctor’s and healthcare facilities’ obligation to save the patients’ lives. Under such duty, they should never leave their patients’ health up to chance.
Particular attention should be given to patients with Limited English Proficiency.
Never assume that these LEP patients can be treated with the help of their bilingual relatives or friends.
The attending physician and the healthcare facility must make sure that these patients get help from a qualified medical translator. If these patients cannot find medical interpreters by themselves, healthcare facilities should refer them to professional medical interpreters.
This may be a simple move, but it can help save and heal a life.