Hospital administrators, medical interpreters, health care providers and their patients would all do well to note a 2011 study showing that better-informed patients can help cut the cost of patient care.
The study, released by Harvard University, shows that providing patients with more information about their conditions and treatment options not only helps by improving patient care, but also by saving money.
More comprehensive information can especially help decrease the rapid turnover rate in repeat visits from patients supported by Medicare.
How Extra Information Cuts the Cost of Health Care
According to the study, providing patients with more information about their health and treatment options can help slow the stream of Medicare patients through hospitals by approximately 20 percent. Patients lacking comprehensive information about their conditions — and possible solutions — are more likely to opt for less-effective treatment options, leading to repeat visits.
In some cases, for instance, doctors who do not receive a complete list of medications previously prescribed for the patient may prescribe a drug that reacts poorly with pre-existing medications. Such gaps in communication contribute to a patient’s being more likely to require multiple visits within a short period of time, each of which costs time and money.
Medical Interpreters Keep Patients Informed
Although the study does not specifically reference the role of medical interpreters in providing patients with comprehensive information, the results are readily applicable to the medical interpreting profession. The instances of confusion focused on in the study — such as patients taking conflicting medications — are areas where linguistic expertise can prevent miscommunication and errors.
A skilled medical interpreter who specializes in health care terminology helps overcome linguistic barriers. Medical interpreters play a key role in ensuring that patients, as well as doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are well-informed. A medical interpreter helps convey information about prescriptions, medical instructions, treatment options and post-discharge instructions — all important elements if a patient’s treatment is to be successful.
Medical Interpreters Save Time, Money and Trouble
Previous studies have shown that one in five Medicare patients have to return to the hospital within 30 days of a previous admission. The health care law, which went into effect in October 2012 and required hospitals to pay the costs for those patients readmitted within 30 days, likely cost these health care facilities billions of dollars.
By enhancing patient-physician communication and ensuring patients are better-informed, professional medical interpreters can play an important role in cutting such costs.
But the medical interpreter’s job is far more important than simply pinching pennies: A medical interpreter can make the patient’s experience easier and, most importantly, safer. By facilitating the exchange of communication between patients and hospital staff, medical interpreters don’t just help cut costs — they help minimize risks and improve patient care.