Trustworthy communication has never been more important than today. We live in a world of globalization, increased migration and fast development of technology. And the fast spread of information about COVID-19 we’ve seen this past year is a great example of our time’s communication challenges.
Language barriers are more current than ever. And studies show that miscommunication between medical professionals and patients can reduce both parties’ satisfaction, decrease the quality of care and decrease the patients safety.
Language barriers, and the lack of access to qualified interpreters, can also cause serious consequences when it comes to patients compliance. A current example of this is people’s willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Because if we don’t understand the message, we don’t trust the messenger. And sometimes, we might not even know we’ve received a message in the first place.
We have several problems.
According to a survey done by the Swedish foundation The Global Village, people in lower socioeconomic areas of Sweden, with a higher rate of language diversity, had less trust in societal functions such as the healthcare system and the government than in other areas, when it came to information connected to COVID-19. This, or course, affects how people in these areas are going to comply with information provided by these functions.
Speaking of language problems. In Sweden, we only have around 182 medically authorized interpreters. For all languages. A low number, since foreign born people make up about 20 % (2 million) of Swedens population. And an even lower number if you think about the fact that there are over 6000 languages in the world.
So, what can this mistrust in our societal functions and the lack of interpreters lead to?
The public health agency of Sweden reported that several studies show that foreign born people have a higher risk of suffering from serious illness and death from COVID19. The report also shows that foreign-born people have gotten vaccinated against COVID19 to a much lower degree than domestic-born people.
Gaps in the vaccination coverage increases the risk of the spread of infection. It can also affect the conditions to create equal health care in the long term. With less people vaccinated in certain areas or population groups, the risk of “cluster” outbreaks increases.
Language barriers is not just a problem during a pandemic. And it’s always a good idea to have a complement ready if traditional interpreters aren’t available. Thats’ why we created Care to Translate, a medical translator in 39+ languages for healthcare staff and patients.