How Medical Interpreting Helps: What You Need To Know Now

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How can medical interpreting help? Why is this a vital form of language interpretation and translation right now? The coronavirus has revealed that everyday heroes walk amongst us. Our doctors and nurses have been nothing short of remarkable as they have grappled with millions of sick patients. They have done so in the midst of personal protective equipment shortages. They also experience the anxiety of wondering if they or their colleagues will succumb to the tragic effects of Covid-19. At A Foreign Language Service – AFLS, we know how hard our health care professionals are working, and we are finding ways every day to support this vital work of caring for our communities.

Despite challenges, doctors and nurses continue to show up to work and fulfill their duty to heal and comfort. But in order to do their jobs effectively, these medical professionals need to be able to communicate effectively with patients who, as the Health Affairs journal reports, speak a wide variety of languages. These doctors and nurses need medical interpreters to help them communicate with accuracy and expediency in order to save lives. Trustworthy medical interpreting is vital in any season, but especially during a global pandemic.

How Medical Interpreting Is Different, And Why It Matters

Medical interpreting is unique within the larger realm of language interpreting. Whereas most interpreters can elucidate a different language in general, medical interpreters must be extremely detail-oriented. They must understand not only the target language’s generic lexicon but also all the specific medical terms. Their ability to understand and to communicate a patient’s description of symptoms can be the difference between a correct diagnosis and a misdiagnosis. Or, to put it more bluntly, the difference between life and death. As a result, medical interpreters must fulfill stringent certification standards.

globe with Stethoscope over it

This is why at A Foreign Language Service – AFLS, our medical interpreters are certified and adhere to the standards of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC). These standards encompass “culturally competent health care interpreting, including standards for the provision of interpreter services in health care settings and a code of ethics for interpreters in health care.” The NCIHC pursues their mission with a commitment to the empowerment of limited-English-proficient communities. They are also committed to respect for and acceptance of all peoples, including small communities, native peoples, and cultural communities whose tradition is oral. Toward this end, The NCIHC training standards include the evolution of culturally appropriate practices in regard to health care interpreter training.

The NCIHC pursues their mission with a commitment to the empowerment of limited-English-proficient communities. They are also committed to respect for and acceptance of all peoples, including small communities, native peoples, and cultural communities whose tradition is oral.

Language Interpreting Services and Mental Health Care

At AFLS, we also understand that health care does not merely stop with physical maladies, it extends to psychological ones as well. Although much of the current news has focused on the physical effects of the novel coronavirus, not as much attention has been paid to the psychological effects of social distancing, job loss, and the death of loved ones. The best medical recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help stop the spread of the coronavirus also unintentionally can exacerbate problems associated with mental health. In this area, medical interpreters can help as well. Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate when it comes to language, and neither do mental health diseases. Medical interpreters must be prepared not only to talk about the different parts of the body and associated maladies, but also different parts of the human psyche and its associated ailments.

What You Need To Know About The Cost Of Medical Interpreting

Medical interpreting is a rare skill set and it is likewise compensated accordingly. Medical interpreters are certified professionals with over 100 hours of training in medical interpreting. This is not a family member or bilingual hospital staffer that is doing the interpreting because of lack of better options. These are dedicated experts that have trained for this specific type of occasion. Certified medical interpreters usually must be booked at a three-hour minimum and charge between $100 and $140 per hour for their services. Therefore, most medical interpreting will cost between $300 and $420 per patient. Different nuances affect the price, such as languages needed and location, as different states have different requirements.

nurses assisting patients outside the hospital
Medical interpreting supports effective diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and helps prevent medical error and adverse events. Photo by SimpleFoto on Canva.

Accurate, Timely Interpreting Protects Against Medical Error

However, the greater cost is that of not hiring an interpreter with the commensurate skills to properly interpret for a medical emergency. This happens much more frequently than it ought to and the consequences are tragic. Patients with limited English ability are often misdiagnosed and not properly advised so that they can give informed consent to procedures. What’s more, they return to the hospital more frequently than other patients. According to Modern Healthcare news, lack of proper medical interpretation “… increases the risk of medication errors, wrong procedures, avoidable readmissions and other adverse events. Nearly 9% of the U.S. population is at risk for an adverse event because of language barriers.” At AFLS, we are committed to providing medical interpreting to help mitigate these risks.

According to Modern Healthcare news, lack of proper medical interpretation “… increases the risk of medication errors, wrong procedures, avoidable readmissions and other adverse events. Nearly 9% of the U.S. population is at risk for an adverse event because of language barriers.”

How Medical Interpreting Helps Our Families And Communities

The value of medical interpreting for both physical illnesses and mental health concerns cannot be understated. Doctors and nurses who have committed themselves to treating all people regardless of race, class, or ethnicity. This being the case, health care professionals must have accurate information to correctly diagnosis and treat their patients. Medical interpreters have a unique role to play in this with their specific skill set.

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Experienced medical interpreters support effective patient communication with health care professionals in hospitals, family practices, and mental health professions. Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.

By providing accurate, expedient interpreting, they enable the medical community to fulfill its mission. Furthermore, as the American Journal of Psychiatry reports, medical interpreters not only interpret, they also build rapport with the patient. They take into consideration non-verbal communication that can help doctors and patients to communicate more effectively. Consequently, when doctors, psychologists, and medical interpreters work together, every community in America has the opportunity to flourish.

Language Interpreting And Translation Services That Make A Difference

As a trusted leading language service provider, A Foreign Language Service – AFLS provides OPI/ VRI interpreting and on-site interpreting, certified document translation, and localization services to clients around the world. We offer services in up to 400 languages, including high demand ones such as Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, and American Sign Language (ASL). Depending on your needs, we can also provide support in endangered and emerging languages like Basque, Irish Gaelic, and Quechua. In this vital work, we collaborate with a network of 1500-strong passionate, licensed professional translators and interpreters based throughout the world. Our clients include global brands and government agencies, as well as the medical, legal, business, and education communities. At AFLS, we understand the power and importance of language. We know that every language matters. Your language matters. Contact us today for a free quote!

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