• Continental Interpreting

The Importance of Using Certified Healthcare Interpreters

Updated: Aug 26


Healthcare interpreters bridge the communication gap between medical professionals and limited English proficiency (LEP) patients.  The result is improved patient care, reduced risk of mis-diagnosis, and enhanced compliance with HIPPA and other rules surrounding patient rights.

Between Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and more modern developments with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, a substantial number of medical providers are legally required to offer qualified interpreters to LEP patients.  However, many providers are uncertain as to the definition of qualified interpreters.


Certified Healthcare Interpreters Versus Ad Hoc Interpreters


Healthcare interpreting is a highly specialized field that requires training for both language translations and medical proficiency.  These professionals go through certification programs with the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (CMI) or the Commission for Certification for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) to support industry standards.  Firms that specialize in providing medical interpreters, such as Continental Interpreting Services, take additional steps to ensure HIPAA compliance, third-party background checks, and drug testing – all of which can be customized to clients’ requirements.


Ad hoc interpreting, on the other hand, refers to the use of bilingual individuals who happen to be present when the need arises but don’t have specific training in language interpretation.  Often, medical staff, facility employees, or patient family members (including children) are used as ad hoc interpreters.  These untrained interpreters commonly omit important words, misinterpret complex medical concepts, include bias, and are less likely to be able to manage the pace of the conversation.


The Risk of Using Ad Hoc Interpreters


For the wellbeing of both patients and medical professionals, using ad hoc interpreters can be dangerous.  In an article written by NPR on this topic, they use an example of a man who was brought into the hospital unconscious.  His Spanish-speaking family used the word “intoxicado” because they suspected he was poisoned by something he ate.  Instead of treating the patient for poisoning, the doctors interpreted to word to mean intoxicated and treated him for a drug overdose.


This example shows the power of communication and the high-stakes of miscommunications.  Not only does this pose a threat to patients, but it also opens the medical team and facility up to costly lawsuits.


Explore the Benefits of Certified Healthcare Interpreters with Continental Interpreting Services

For more than 20 years, Continental Interpreting Services has provided language solutions that bridge communication gaps and transcend cultural barriers. With a worldwide network of certified and qualified interpreters and translators, CIS brings you the highest quality interpreting and translation services—quickly, efficiently and cost effectively.


Call us at (800) 201-7121 or click here to request a quote.

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