Interpreter Training, Not Years of Experience, Linked to Improved Safety

June 29, 2012 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


The length of interpreter training, rather than the length of the interpreter’s experience, is most influential when assessing whether the interpreter will have a significant effect on patient experiences and quality of care, according to a study published online March 19, 2012, in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The authors taped and reviewed 57 emergency department (ED) encounters with patients with limited English proficiency in two Massachusetts EDs; the primary language for all of the patients was Spanish. Of the 57 visits, 20 were facilitated by professional interpreters, 27 by ad hoc interpreters (e.g., family members, bilingual hospital staff), and 10 had no interpreters. Nearly 1,900 interpretation errors were noted during the encounters, of which 18% were potentially clinically significant.

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