When you think you have a medical problem, looking up your symptoms on Google may seem like a good idea at the time, but it can actually cause unnecessary panic. However, for many people, so can going to their doctor.
This is because there is sometimes a language barrier between the doctor and the patient, which can lead to confusion and even distress. That’s why medical interpreting is so important.
The Problem with a Language Barrier Between Patients and Doctors
Communication between doctors and patients is the key to reducing medical malpractice lawsuits. For example, according to The New York Times, one study polled women who were suing their doctors after giving birth to newborns who either died or had permanent injuries.
The study found that 70 percent of them claimed their doctors did not warn them that their babies would have permanent health problems while half of the women surveyed claimed their doctor misled them and one third said their doctor did not communicate very openly with them at all.
Clearly, the inability of doctors to communicate with patients can lead to injury and, in some cases, even death, which can then result in medical malpractice lawsuits. For this reason, medical interpreting is essential when doctors and patients speak different languages.
How a Medical Interpreter Can Help
Some doctors are not good communicators in any language, but others simply need some help from a medical interpreter so that patients can understand them. If you and your doctor speak different languages, medical interpreting is the way to go.
If you know some of the words in the language your doctor speaks, you might assume that’s good enough. But usually, it’s not. When you can only comprehend half of each sentence your doctor says, it’s easy to misunderstand the actual meaning.
Doctors need patients to fully understand them when they ask questions, make diagnoses and give out instructions for home care. In addition, they need to be able to understand patients when they describe their symptoms, alert their doctor to any allergies they have and ask treatment related questions. A medical interpreter can make sure every word makes sense to you and your doctor.
Why You Need a Professional Medical Interpreter
It might be okay to occasionally have a friend interpret for you during a regular conversation, but don’t make this mistake when talking to your doctor. Just because someone can speak more than one language doesn’t mean he or she can properly interpret medical terminology.
You need a professional medical interpreter to help you understand what your doctor is saying to you. Otherwise, you might leave the doctor’s office thinking you have a different diagnosis and care plan than you actually do, all because your friend misunderstood a few medical terms when interpreting for you.
When it comes to the medical profession, it’s clear that professional interpreters are a must whenever any sort of language barrier exists. Not only will this limit the amount of malpractice suits, but it will ensure that the patient is being properly diagnosed and treated, saving time, money and – most importantly – lives.