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Ben Glass
Ben Glass
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Interpreters in the Emergency Room?

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There is a new article out from the New England Journal of Medicine that asks the question of whether the health care industry should be required to provide (and, presumably, pay for) interpreters in order to reduce communication errors between doctors and non-English speaking patients. The implications for medical malpractice claims are enormous.

The article describes several very unfortunate situations that have come up and suggests:

Language barriers can have deleterious effects. Patients who face such barriers are less likely than others to have a usual source of medical care; they receive preventive services at reduced rates; and they have an increased risk of nonadherence to medication. Among patients with psychiatric conditions, those who encounter language barriers are more likely than others to receive a diagnosis of severe psychopathology — but are also more likely to leave the hospital against medical advice. Among children with asthma, those who confront language barriers have an increased risk of intubation. Such patients are less likely than others to return for follow-up appointments after visits to the emergency room, and they have higher rates of hospitalization and drug complications. Greater resources are used in their care, but they have lower levels of patient satisfaction.

Interesting. What do you think?

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons thinks the this is not a good idea.