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Can Language Barriers in Health Care Lead to Adverse Events?

A preview of two cases to be discussed at the upcoming 2010 IMIA Conference

Minimizing risk is a crucial piece of any hospital’s or provider’s work: though medicine is inherently unpredictable, they all follow programs, procedures, and plans designed to make treatments effective and reduce the chances of harming patients or providing services that stimulate lawsuits. Barbara Lightizer, MS, MA, CPHRM, director of Risk Management, Patient Relations and Interpreter Services at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, uses this definition of risk management: “The process of making and carrying out decisions that will help prevent adverse consequences and minimize the negative effects of accidental losses on an individual or an organization.” So how do interpreters for low English proficiency (LEP) patients fit into the risk management picture at hospitals and providers’ offices? Read the rest of this entry »

RWJF project offers video on hospital language services

A new video from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Speaking Together project describes the role that language services play in delivering high quality health care. The video features Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where medically trained interpreters are contributing to safety and clinical outcomes for patients who speak or understand little English. The hospitals are participants in the national project to improve health care language services and reduce health care disparities associated with language barriers. Another initiative supporting hospitals with language assistance resources is the Missouri Hospital Association’s Web site.