Language barriers are common in healthcare globally. These come with a number of consequences both for the patient and the healthcare provider.
Language barriers are common in healthcare globally. In the United States, nearly 25 million people speak English less than “very well”, and more than 350 languages are spoken in US homes. Language barriers are also common in countries with multiple official languages, such as India and South Africa.
In Europe, the European Commission estimates that 24 million people have a limited command of the official language of the country they live in. Additionally, in low- and middle-income countries, language barriers are often worsened by a lack of trained medical interpreters.
Common language barriers in healthcare include: a patient's limited native language proficiency, a provider's limited proficiency in the patient's native language, and cultural differences between patient and provider. Additionally, patients may not be able to understand the medical terminology used by healthcare providers. Language barriers in healthcare can lead to a number of consequences both the patient and the healthcare provider.
4 common consequences to language barriers in healthcare
Language barriers can lead to miscommunication between healthcare providers and patients, which can result in incorrect diagnosis or treatment.
2. Poor Patient Outcomes
Language barriers can lead to poor patient outcomes, as patients may not understand their medical instructions or instructions for taking medications.
3. Delays in Care
Language barriers can also lead to delays in care, as healthcare providers may need to take extra time to explain instructions or information to patients.
4. Increased Costs
Language barriers can also lead to increased costs, as healthcare providers may need to hire additional staff to provide translation services or pay for translation services.
The language barriers, and the consequences can be mitigated by providing language services, such as professional healthcare interpreters that are present physically or on the phone.
If professional interpreters are not available, digital translators such as Care to Translate could fill the gap, in some part of the patient journey, or throughout (depending on the area of healthcare). This is a safer alternative than using accompanying family members as interpreters, since lack of medical terminology and mistranslation can still be a risk factor when they communicate with the healthcare provider.
Read more about our digital medical translation tool here