Hospitals seek language interpreters with clinical expertise

Certified healthcare interpreters who have both medical expertise and translation skills are in demand within hospitals that want to not only communicate with patients, but also to guard against liability, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

 "There is no way somebody can transmit information accurately without the knowledge of medical terminology and the ability to stay neutral in that setting," Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, University of Wisconsin Health's director of community partnerships and interpreter services, told the newspaper.

As demand for certified healthcare interpreters grew, the local community college expanded its course offerings to help interpreters train for the national certification exam, according to the article.

Hospitals are combining in-house staff, freelance interpreters and national phone and video interpretation services to meet interpretation needs, the State Journal reported.

Video interpreters available online can be more cost-effective than in-person interpreters, since insurance won't pay for in-person interpretation services, the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, reported last year.

A study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published last year in Pediatrics found that only 56 percent of pediatricians surveyed in 2010 said they used formal medical interpreters with patients, and 57 percent relied on patients' family members to help translate medical information.

The authors suggested that doctors won't use appropriate language interpreters unless they receive higher reimbursements for the services.

To learn more:
- read the State Journal article