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Medical Interpretation Services an Important Topic

Interpretation Services in medical settings

Last updated on November 30th, 2022 at 02:37 pm

medical interpretation servicesWhat Is Medical Interpretation?

Medical interpretation is the act of converting spoken words in one language into another language in a medical context. Medical interpretation is a form of consecutive interpretation, meaning that one person speaks first, then the interpreter conveys the message to the listener. This is most often used with doctor-patient visits. This differs from simultaneous interpretation, where the interpreter speaks along with the first person, and the listener attends to the interpreter, often through a headset for clarity. An example of medical interpreting in simultaneous form is a medical conference or a pharmaceutical lecture with a large multilingual audience.

Medical interpreters provide an important service in breaking down language barriers between medical staff and patients. Clear communication in a medical setting is vital to make sure the patient gets the best care and to minimize mistakes.

Medical Interpreters Versus Medical Translators

A medical interpreter is not the same as a medical translator, because medical translators work with the written word and medical interpreters work with the spoken word. Both are extremely important, but today we’re looking at interpreters (If you want to learn about translation, check out our LEP translations or Medical translation services). A large amount of spoken communication goes on between doctors, nurses, surgeons, EMTs, orderlies, and patients, and it is essential that all be understood correctly. The medical arena, like the legal, is not an area where mistakes in communication can afford to be made.

Dangers of Not Having a Medical Interpreter

A lack of medical interpretation poses a significant risk for LEP (Limited English Proficiency) patients in the United States. Generally, there is too much reliance on bilingual employees and family members that are not professional interpreters. Even if someone is fluent in both languages, medical terminology is highly specific and family members sometimes will change what was said by the doctor. Misinterpreting even one word can cause pain and suffering that could be avoided.

Here are some results of a lack of medical translation:


The Spanish word “intoxicado” sounds a lot like the English “intoxicated.” But it does not mean inebriated, it means nauseated, or even poisoned. A misunderstanding of Spanish could make someone even sicker because they were given fluids and bed rest when what they needed was to have their stomach pumped.

Incorrect Treatments and Dosages

Errors in medical interpretation, or lack of help in the communication between a healthcare provider and a patient, can lead to a patient being given the wrong medication, which will fail to treat the issue and possibly cause new problems. Incorrect dosages can also cause severe adverse effects, as dosage can make the difference between a medicine and a poison.

Incorrect Aftercare

Patients are often given directions for continuing care of themselves after they leave the hospital, such as taking medication with food, keeping an injured limb elevated, or avoiding alcohol. Medical interpretation that is incorrect or absent can lead to a patient taking medication twice a day when they should be taking two capsules once a day, taking a topical treatment orally, or re-injuring a limb for lack of rest.

There are statics that show that many LEP patients return to consults or emergency rooms due to lack of understanding of treatment.

Loss of Patient Rights

A patient’s rights are not being honored if they do not understand what is happening. Imagine how terrifying it would be to be sick and in pain and not to understand what the people around you are saying. Fear and stress do not help people get well, and a patient’s family should not be responsible for providing language services.

Interpreting Medical Care

The world is smaller, and families are moving from one place in the world to another, breaking down language barriers is more important than ever. With greater awareness, more attention can be paid to correcting the lack of medical interpretation in medical institutions. To provide the best care, hospitals, medical institutions, medical practices, and even dental offices should have quick access to professional medical interpretation. A medical interpreter must be fluent in both the source and target language as well as medical terminology.

Medical interpreters can be available by phone, video call, or in person. Medical interpretation over the phone is an especially prompt method of offering language services, giving the staff immediate access to language support. The interpreter also ensures that the patient stays informed on what is happening, which not only helps them get well physically, but is an immense psychological relief to them and their families. Video Remote Interpretation is useful for scheduled visits where patients can show their issues via video, as well as making virtual medical care much more comfortable.

Language Services Support When You Need It Most

Medical interpreters help patients get better care, reduce re-admissions, reduce occurrences of malpractice, save time, and reduce suffering exacerbated by language barriers. We have access to professional medical interpreters at any hour who are ready to help patients and medical staff communicate. Call JR Language today to find your medical language solution.

Sergio Ruffolo
Sergio Ruffolo
Sergio has more than 25 years of multinational experience providing consulting services and leading IT organizations in Africa, Asia and America, which has given him plenty interesting and insightful lessons to teach about global business. He is fluent in Spanish and English, in addition to conversational Portuguese. He has lived in more than 12 cities around the world, moving around and working in different cultures has left him with a real global perspective. Sergio is a real citizen of the world.