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Trained Translators Decrease Emergency Room Risks Study Finds

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

If you are being treated at an emergency room, it pays to have the benefit of a professional interpreter. This is the claim made by a recent study on the effectiveness of professionally-trained language translators compared to having no translation services or an ad-hoc interpreter such as a family member.

The study emphasizes how important it is for hospitals to use professional interpreters when appropriate, since communication errors can lead to risks in many circumstances, such as during delivery to prevent birth injuries. The study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that mistakes with potential clinical consequences were about two times more likely when there was no interpreter present or when the translator was an amateur, according to Fox News.

Researchers looked at 57 primarily Spanish-speaking families at two ERs; with a trained interpreter, only 12 percent of translation mistakes resulted in potential health risks. In contrast, 20-22 percent of such errors posed health risks with an amateur translator present, such as a family member or untrained bilingual hospital staff member.

If you speak a language other than English, having the services of a professional translator in the hospital can help you feel at ease by allowing you to speak your first language. In addition, previous studies have shown that professional translation services may improve patient health care and cut costs by avoiding unnecessary tests, according to Fox News.

Source: Fox News, “Interpreters in ER may limit medical errors, study suggests,” April 18, 2012.

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