Bedside interpreter gives patients a voice

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Effective communication is a pillar of achieving the best healthcare. With the large array of languages spoken in the United States, English can be a struggle. Healthcare providers are looking for an easier, more effective way to reach patients in their primary tongue.

A study, conducted by Jonathan Lee and Leah Karliner of the University of California, San Francisco, compared current communication methods with a bedside interpreter phone system, which gives patients and physicians access to professional medical interpreters in more than 100 languages.

Participants in evaluating the effectiveness of this bedside service included 152 elderly Chinese- and Spanish-speaking patients and 86 English-speaking patients. Participants were given either the conventional method of making a scheduled appointment with a staff interpreter orhe mobile interpreter phone system.

Results showed that 54 percent of patients were significantly more capable of understanding the reasons behind a procedure and the risks involved as well as having a better chance to have their questions answered. The rate of English-speaking patients being happy with interpretative services increased from 29 percent to 74.

"Implementation of a bedside interpreter-phone system to increase rapid access to professional interpreters should be considered for all hospitals seeking to improve quality and decrease disparities for patients with limited English proficiency," said Lee.