The American Medical Association is pushing for greater use of medical interpreting in pharmacies. Through this expanded policy, the AMA hopes to improve the level of service for non-English speaking patients and help make their treatments more effective.
It’s a wise move on the AMA’s part that puts the prescription holder’s welfare and comfort first.
And it’s not just the customers who can benefit from interpreting; pharmacies will benefit, too. But they need to know how best to go about using interpreting services in the medical world.
Understanding the Dose
Medical prescriptions are a tricky thing. Most modern drugs have powerful side effects and, if taken the wrong way, could cause harm to the patient. The pharmacist needs to be able to assess and assist the patient in understanding the correct dosage.
The best-known example is “once.” In English, “once” means one time. But in Spanish, “once” is the word for 11 — you can see how this leads to confusion, and possibly dangerous or even fatal miscommunications. Taking 11 doses of a medication when you should have only taken one could be a very serious problem.
Being able to interpret medical information would be a tremendous help in communicating with non-English speaking patients who may think they know the right dosage, but actually don’t. Interpreting would lessen the chance of a dosage error, and reduce the pharmacy’s liability for any accidents.
Medical Interpreting on Call
Pharmacies will likely want the quickest and easiest-to-access interpreting service. In a pharmacy setting, especially one where non-English speakers are not a frequent occurrence, an excellent and cost-effective option would be telephonic interpreting services. Getting a professional interpreter on the telephone while the prescription holder is still standing in front of you is often an ideal situation for patient and pharmacist alike.
Telephonic interpreting is easy to access. Telephonic interpreters versed in languages from around the globe are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There’s no special equipment needed, either: telephonic interpreting can be performed via a speakerphone, conference call or even by passing a single handset back and forth.
The Family Pharmacist
If a large amount of a pharmacy’s patients do not speak English, it may be better to consider an on-site interpreter.
Having interpreting services available can open the door to better staff relationships with non-English speaking patients. These customers will have the opportunity to see that filling their prescription at a pharmacy with a medical interpreter present can be a much simpler, more pleasant and informative process than at a pharmacy with no interpreter at all.
This could result in more repeat business and may even build up the pharmacy’s reputation within the patient’s family and community as a good place for non-English speakers to frequent.
Medical Interpreting Keeps It Professional
Many pharmacies and other medical staff have developed informal solutions to the language barrier issue. They may make use of a patient’s English-speaking family members, enlist the services of bilingual staff or use automated online translation sites.
But using unprofessional and amateur interpreting and translation tools in a pharmacy setting can be dangerous. Online translation sites are notoriously unreliable, and no pharmacy should have to rely on busy staff members who may not know the appropriate medical terminology in a given language. And as nearly all pharmacists are aware, getting even slightly incorrect prescription information can be a matter of life and death to a patient.
All pharmacies should be able to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have accurate and reliable information for their patients. By using a professional medical interpreting service, they can have a better idea that this is the case with all of their patients, no matter what language they speak.