Oct 10, 2018

Interpreter services in emergency medical care

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English is a second language for many people living in Arizona. Unfortunately, these language barriers can be a problem when a patient who is not fluent in English comes to an emergency room for critical care.

Interpreter services are often unavailable in hospital emergency departments due to lack of funding and staffing. However, research suggests that having trained interpreters available can reduce the number of readmissions for people with limited English proficiency and improve patient outcomes. Having a professional interpreter readily available can help reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors.

Some medical providers are turning to community outreach to help individuals who speak English as a second language understand what medical services are available before they experience a medical emergency.

An option some emergency departments have utilized is offering interpreter services by video. Trained interpreters can help the medical team understand what is going on more quickly than an ad hoc interpreter, who is usually a member of the patient’s family. Research demonstrates that trained interpreters are far more accurate in most cases.

During a medical emergency, delayed treatment could mean the difference between life and death. When medical providers proceed without the benefit of interpreter services, the patient may be at a greater risk of experiencing an emergency room error.

A person who has been injured as a result of a medical error may benefit from speaking to an attorney. A claimant must prove that a medical provider’s treatment fell below the standard of care that is considered acceptable in the medical community. In cases where a medical error could have been easily avoided if an interpreter was available, a personal injury claim could result in compensation to cover health care costs.

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