A doctor and patient smile at each other while using an iPad to speak with an interpreter.

Providing Interpreter Services in Healthcare: Enhancing Care

Quality medical interpretation is crucial for overcoming language discordance and delivering equitable, effective healthcare. Medical interpreter companies like Certified Languages International provide these essential services to help ensure accuracy and confidentiality in medical interpretation. With the growing diversity of patient populations in healthcare, it’s essential for facilities to provide medical interpreter services.

From remote video options to on-demand phone interpretation, there are many ways for providers to better serve limited English proficiency (LEP) patients.

Addressing Communication Gaps in Healthcare

Language barriers can obstruct effective patient-provider communication and quality of care. Failing to address language needs can have severe consequences. Including:

  • Missed diagnoses from poor health histories
  • Treatment nonadherence from misunderstood instructions
  • Lower patient satisfaction and engagement
  • Increased risks and medical errors
  • Poorer treatment outcomes
  • More frequent readmissions
  • Longer hospital stays
  • Exacerbation of disparities

Professional medical interpreters are a step in the right direction. By facilitating clear communication, medical interpreters:

  • Enable accurate sharing of symptoms and medical histories
  • Help patients comprehend diagnoses, care plans, and discharge instructions
  • Allow patients to give fully informed consent
  • Empower patients to actively participate in healthcare decisions
  • Build trust between patients and providers
  • Improve compliance through a better understanding
  • Reduce risks from miscommunication of vital information
  • Lower readmissions when care is properly understood
  • Shorten hospital stays when care coordination is streamlined

Qualified interpreters act as a conduit for open dialogue, information exchange, and mutual comprehension between parties who don’t speak the same language. This enhances satisfaction, outcomes, and experiences for providers and patients alike.

Medical Interpretation vs. Translation

Interpretation and translation services are essential in healthcare. While both services are usually offered by medical interpreting companies, they are different:

  • Medical interpretation involves orally converting spoken communication between languages in real time during patient-provider interactions. Interpreters not only convert speech word-for-word but also convey meaning.
  • Medical translation refers to accurately converting written healthcare materials such as patient forms, prescriptions, instructions, manuals, informed consents, medical histories, and more into another written language.

Key Differences of Medical Interpretation vs. Translation:

  • Interpretation is oral or signed and occurs in real-time during live conversations, while translation involves written documents.
  • Interpreters must quickly process and convert speech on the spot, while translators have more time for accuracy.
  • Interpreters have a more visible role in care delivery, while translators have a more behind-the-scenes support role.

Modes of Medical Interpretation

There are a few ways facilities can offer medical interpretation. CLI offers it via phone and video:

Video Remote Interpretation (VRI)

Video remote interpretation services allow interpreters, providers, and patients to connect in real-time remotely. CLI’s MERFi VRI platform delivers an on-demand connection to an interpreter in seconds using high-quality video and audio.

For medical providers, VRI has many benefits:

  • Faster service: Video platforms enable rapid connection to interpreters in seconds rather than waiting for an in-person interpreter to become available. This prevents delays in care.
  • Unified services: MERFi allows providers to access all 230+ audio languages through the same platform. 
  • Visual communication: Video enables interpreters to view body language and non-verbal cues, leading to more accurate and complete interpretation sessions.
  • Scalability: Video makes it easy to rapidly scale interpreter use up or down to match fluctuating patient demand and acuity levels.

Telephonic Interpretation

Phone interpretation gives you instant access to qualified interpreters, and is a convenient option scheduling, quick conversations, or simple interactions. One of the biggest benefits of CLI’s telephone interpretation is that we connect you with an interpreter almost immediately. 

Some other benefits of phone interpretation in healthcare include:

  • Cost-efficiency: Phone interpretation eliminates travel costs associated with on-site interpreters and provides per-minute rates. This helps control costs.
  • Speed: Connection to phone interpreters takes seconds, preventing delays in care compared to waiting for an on-site interpreter to arrive.
  • Accessibility: Phone interpretation gives access to qualified interpreters in 230+ languages, including many rare dialects or languages that may not be locally available in person.

Standards for Qualified Interpreters

As interpreting impacts care quality and patient safety, professional certification is helpful, and adherence to standards is essential.

Qualified interpreters should have:

  • Fluency in English and the target language: A native command of both the source and target languages 
  • Healthcare specialization: A solid grasp of medical terminology, general procedures, anatomy, diagnosis processes, and documentation practices.
  • Cultural competency: Respect for diverse cultures and communication styles 

Connect On-Demand with Professional Interpreters from CLI

Reducing Risks of Ad Hoc Interpreters

In the absence of professional interpreters, ad hoc interpreters like family, friends, or staff are often used to bridge communication divides. However, this poses several risks, including:

  • Mistranslations: Non-professionals may not be familiar with medical terminology, resulting in errors.
  • Discomfort: Patients may withhold sensitive information when working with their family members as interpreters versus professionals.
  • Ethical issues: Without proper training, ad hoc interpreters may omit, condense, add, or editorialize conversations.
  • Legal liability: Inaccuracies by unqualified interpreters can open up lawsuits.

Professional interpreters mitigate countless risks while upholding ethical, legal, and clinical standards and should be the default choice.

Realizing the Full Benefits of Professional Interpreters

Working with medical interpreters offers many advantages that enhance provider service and patient experiences:

  • Potent first impressions: Interpreted clinic/hospital visits get relationships off on the right foot through welcoming, supported communication.
  • Informed consent: Interpreters enable patients to fully comprehend procedures before consenting, which is legally and ethically required.
  • Reduced readmissions: Better understanding facilitated by interpreters helps avoid readmissions and ED visits.
  • Cost Savings: Shorter stays and fewer adverse events lower costs.

In essence, professional medical interpreters are a vital allied health profession improving outcomes, experiences, and access for underserved minority populations.

Choosing the Best Interpretation Partners

To fully leverage interpretation’s benefits, partnering with the right provider is key. When vetting interpreters or interpretation providers, ensure:

  • 24/7 availability 
  • Screened, and medically specialized interpreters 
  • Physician-approved medical interpreter training
  • Compliance and security protocols
  • Monitoring, reporting, and quality management
  • Scalability to flexibly meet fluctuating interpretation needs
  • Established track record serving hospitals and health systems

Interpretation Programs Enhance Health Equity

For vulnerable minority groups facing systemic disadvantages, language barriers compound disparities in accessing quality healthcare.

Professional interpretation services help reduce these inequities by:

  • Helping minorities actively engage in care decisions
  • Facilitating stronger relationships between patients and providers
  • Increasing adherence to treatment plans
  • Ensuring non-English speakers receive the same level of care as English speakers

When combined with cultural competency training, interpreter services enable providers to deliver patient-centered care, respecting diverse needs while optimizing engagement, experiences, and outcomes for all.

Look to Certified Languages International for Healthcare Interpreting

At CLI, our medical interpretation and translation services help you meet the complex needs of diverse patient populations. Our services ensure accuracy and confidentiality in medical interpretation to help drive better health outcomes while ensuring your patients feel comfortable. With our services, you can:

  • Communicate with patients in hundreds of languages, including American Sign Language
  • Get on-demand access to healthcare interpreters 24/7
  • Comply with Section 1557 of the ACA, Joint Commission/DNV standards, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act 
  • Ensure confidentiality with HIPAA-certified interpreters
  • Help your patients feel seen, cared for, and respected

If you want to get set up with our video or phone interpreting, request a quote today. Or, learn more about the comprehensive language services we offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can hospitals budget and plan for interpretation needs?

Historical utilization data, area demographics, and payer mix insights can forecast future interpretation needs. Healthcare systems can help devise data-driven plans for finding the right interpretation services.

How quickly can interpreters be accessed in emergencies?

Emergency departments can connect to qualified interpreters within seconds, 24/7. Our streamlined system ensures quick access when needs are urgent.