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JGIM: studies show importance of language services on disparities, quality of care
Date:11/1/2007

howed that two percent failed the competency test, and 21 percent had only a limited ability to read, write and speak both languages. The study uncovered interpretation errors, including omissions and word confusion, which would be likely to negatively affect clinical outcomes and potentially lead to medical errors.

Having untested and untrained bilingual staff serving as medical interpreters presents a potential risk. Professional interpreter services increase physician-patient communication, safety and satisfaction, said Moreno. With the absence of guidelines and a formal certification process to demonstrate interpreter competence, many health care facilities across the country may not be providing the best possible care to all patients.

> 17th Surgeon General Speaks Out

In a foreword to the supplement, Richard H. Carmona, M.D., Surgeon General of the United States 2002-2006, discussed his familys experiences and the vital importance of culturally and linguistically appropriate health information.

Until my family found a local doctor who spoke Spanish and understood our culture, we often struggled to understand what we needed to do to prevent diseases or to recover from illness or injuries, said Carmona. Language difficulties can create a wall of confusion and misunderstanding between health professionals and the people we are trying to serve, essentially becoming barriers to quality care. Our nation must increase its determination to serve diverse populations by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate care to our patients.

> Foundation Affirms Its Commitment to Issue

In sponsoring the supplement, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reiterated its commitment to programs that bring more equality to the health care system. The Foundation leads national initiatives to improve the availability and quality of language services in hospitals and other health care settings.

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