The Relevance of Healthcare Interpreters

Healthcare Interpreters

Since globalization and migration have highly increased over the last twenty years, the Healthcare System has experienced a wild growth in the demand for qualified medical interpreters, capable of enabling effective communication between nonresident patients and healthcare providers. These changes have been significantly notorious in the United States, where there has been an unprecedented rise of Limited-English proficient (LEP) patients.

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What is healthcare interpreting and why do you need a specialized interpreter?

When we refer to interpreting services, we are alluding to the act of translating live utterances from one language to another in real-time. But, unlike a translation process, interpreting involves immediacy and a thorough and profound knowledgment of specific matters. For instance, healthcare interpreters are trained in specific medical terminology, medical systems, and cultural awareness.

The major relevance of healthcare interpreters is based on their capability of helping avoid negative health outcomes through their professional intervention. That is because whenever there is a language barrier in a Healthcare setting (hospitals, clinics, private practice, urgent care, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health care, etc.), errors and miscommunication can occur, threatening the patient’s health and well-being. In the Healthcare industry there is zero tolerance for mistakes, so interpreters are there to overcome them.


When do you need a healthcare interpreter to jump in?

There are a number of situations where professional healthcare interpreters can guarantee fluid communication between patients and healthcare providers, for example: taking a medical history; giving a diagnosis; performing medical procedures; understanding treatments and prescriptions; understanding discharge and follow up instructions; admission to ER or urgent care; initial medical consultations; physical checkups; surgery; informed consent.

Regarding the research area, there is a high demand for these professionals as clinical trials often collaborate with patients from diverse backgrounds, making it unlikely that all participants will be able to communicate in a common language. As we know, accurate and precise communication between doctors and patients during the process is critical in evaluating the success of new drugs and medical treatments, so professional interpreters are the only viable option to ensure a clear and precise bilingual exchange, especially if the communication needs to be transcribed and certified as part of the study.

Moreover, even though most healthcare interpreters are responsible for working with patients and providers, they may also be asked to work with other individuals such as family members or patients’ representatives, as they provide relevant cultural information that facilitates support for treatment plans. As well, they help to take into consideration the patient’s cultural beliefs and values.


Remote Interpreting Solutions

Taking the previous into account, we could assume that the physical presence of the interpreter is always necessary to carry out his/her job successfully. However, nowadays it is quite common to hear from healthcare interpreters who work in telemedicine. This method allows healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients remotely, using telecommunications technology.

In that sense, solutions like telephonic interpreting and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) help serve communities in a fast and affordable manner with high accuracy and responsibility; particularly in rural populations, where resources are more limited and possibilities of accessing Healthcare facilities are expensive and intricate.

As we can realize, healthcare interpreters perform their activities in a variety of places and events. Health conferences are another setting where they are much needed. These types of interpreters are a key element within a conference since they are the people who make the link between a speaker and the audience. They allow the message to be simultaneously delivered, that is why it is not only an oral translation but also the expression of a cultural reality. In this sense, a lot of in-depth medical knowledgement is needed.


To conclude, healthcare interpreters are more than simply bilinguals. They also need to know and study different cultures and be sensitive to the subtle nuances of meaning in a given language to be able to communicate them in two directions. They must have the skills and knowledge to quickly grasp the intention of a message in its original language, and then re-express it swiftly and accurately in the target language. In addition, they need a thorough knowledge of medical terminology in both the target and source languages, and be familiar with specific medical procedures, as well as the different clinicians’ roles at the healthcare facility in which they work. In short, the Healthcare system could not succeed without their constant presence and commitment.


Are you considering healthcare interpreting services? We’d love to hear from you!

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Healthcare, Interpreting


The Relevance of Healthcare Interpreters

Healthcare Interpreters