Language Barrier in Healthcare

If health care practitioners cannot communicate to the patients in their language, how important is it to find a translator? Whose problem is it, the health care provider’s or the patient’s? Why?

 

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Sample Answer

 

Language barrier forms part of the many challenges patients have when seeking healthcare. In fact, according to previous studies, language barrier contributes to a significant number of medical errors and their adverse outcomes (Showstack, 2019). The vast number of immigrants into the United States has primarily contributed to over 20 million people who cannot speak English very well. It’s a significant concern in the modern world that has necessitated the provision of medical interpreters (translators) who serve to bridge the gap between a patient and the caregiver.

Communication barrier has led to several problems; lack of informed consent, patient aggression, lack of access to healthcare, and other adverse outcomes. Healthcare is a human right for all under the Civil Rights Act, which provides for institutions to avail a translator for patients who cannot communicate in the language of the caregiver (Showstack, 2019). Institutions have been tasked with providing on-site, audio, or video professional translators. Therefore, this has been a step towards the provision of quality care equally to patients regardless of their origin or preferred language. Accessibility, trust, and the quality of translation are the cornerstones of reducing the ethnic disparities. All these improve communication, patient satisfaction, and healthcare access.

However, there have been challenges with the implementation of this attributed to the lack of time, availability, and cultural incompetence of the translators. Common errors occur when patients address the interpreter instead of the caregiver directly and confidentiality issues (Squires, 2019). Efforts to raise awareness of these concerns have been ramped up to build good relationships between caregivers and patients through interpreters.

References

Showstack, R. (2019). Patients don’t have language barriers; the healthcare system does. Emergency Medicine Journal, 36(10), 580-581.

Squires, A. (2019). Health translators and interpreters in national healthcare systems. In Multicultural Health Translation, Interpreting, and Communication (pp. 25-36). Taylor and Francis.

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