According to a recent article authored by Gino Dino in Slator.com, the demand for interpreters across all industries continues to rise, including the need for medically qualified interpreters in the healthcare setting. In fact, translation and interpretation, was the top emerging career in 2017, according to the University of California San Diego, and was also listed as the 2017 US News and World Report’s number one job in the Best Creative and Media Jobs category.
Throughout the past several weeks, media outlets across the country have been covering an increase in demand for interpreters, in both courtrooms and in the healthcare setting. Recent coverage in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Kentucky have highlighted the need for medical interpreters and a dramatic increase in limited English proficient (LEP), Deaf and hard of hearing patients.
In Lehigh Valley, Texas, 12,400 of the 14,000 new residents in the last five years are from outside the United States, and the community’s local hospital, St. Luke’s, has 10 full-time interpreters and over-the-phone interpreters to support more than 40,000 Spanish-speaking patients. In Dallas County, Texas, the Parkland Hospital has 85 medical interpreters on staff, to support up to 1,000 patient visits a day, and in 2016, there were nearly one million interpreter encounters provided to LEP patients across the health system.
The Challenges of Addressing the Rise in LEP Patients
According to U.S. Census data, the LEP population across the nation grew 80 percent from 1990 – 2013. Approximately 61.6 million individuals, foreign and U.S. born, spoke a language other than English at home in 2013. And the 2013 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, found roughly 41 percent, or 25.1 million, were considered to be LEP.
Healthcare organizations today are required by both federal and state laws to provide language access to these patients. Language barriers in the healthcare setting can result in poor understanding of diagnosis, treatment and medication instructions. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported that limited English proficient (LEP) patients suffer temporary harm or death twice as often as English-speaking patients. The agency said that communication breakdowns cause nearly 3,000 unexpected patient deaths every year, the majority of these involve LEP patients.
Without an effective language access program, the AHRQ warns that healthcare providers must consider these potential exposures to liability:
- Patient comprehension of their medical condition, treatment plan, discharge instructions, complications, and follow-up
- Inaccurate and incomplete medical history
- Ineffective or improper use of medications or serious medication errors
- Improper preparation for tests and procedures
- Poor or inadequate informed consent
The Importance of Medically Qualified Interpreters in the Healthcare Setting
InDemand strongly believes that every patient in any medical setting should receive the highest quality healthcare, regardless of language, cultural background or disability. Our medically qualified, culturally competent interpreters and industry leading video remote technology enables healthcare providers to gain efficiencies in their language services programs. Providing immediate access to an interpreter that meets ACA regulations supports improved communication between clinicians and their patients and family members. The efficiencies we see with effective VRI implementations are providing health systems with an option to better meet their interpreting needs with the increasing demand for medically qualified interpreters.
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