Overcoming communication barriers in radiology - a South African view

How can communication in radiology departments be improved when facing patients that do not speak your language? A recent South African study discusses 5 examples.

A recent study from South Africa investigated language barriers in a multicultural radiography setting. Language barriers are particularly challenging in South Africa as it is a country with 11 official languages plus a large number of refugees. Clinics all over the country face the challenge of language barriers daily.

Effective communication is important in any clinical setting. For patients, being able to speak their own language helps to build respect, trust and rapport between them and healthcare staff. In the radiology department, effective communication between patients and radiographers also means a better quality of care. Clinical histories can be obtained better, studying of the images shows improved quality and patients are exposed less to ionizing radiation by reducing the need for repeated procedures.

The study conducted focus-group interviews and discussed different approaches on improving the interlingual communication. These were 5 examples:

1. Short courses/workshops

Courses and workshops for healthcare staff can teach them about languages and intercultural communication.

2. Written material, such as documents or posters

Healthcare staff mentioned it would be helpful to have, for example, posters that show instructions or of the human body so that they could point towards body parts.

3. Professional interpreters

Professional interpreters were seen as one of the best options to this date. However, it was mentioned that the interpreters need to have medical experience to translate specific terminology and maybe teach that terminology to the staff.

4. Diverse workforce

Another suggestion was to employ staff from different backgrounds speaking different languages so that they can act as interpreters when patients of their language come in.

5. Mobile translation technology

A new emerging solution could be apps such as Care to Translate. While not being able to completely substitute an interpreter, they can work complementary to them. The interviews also conclude that correct pronunciation in these apps is essential as it often is hard for healthcare staff to know how to pronounce the new language correctly.

Perhaps like Google Translate. Or something that is more modern and made for the medical field.

Quote from an interviewee of the study

Ultimately, effective communication is essential to providing high-quality care in the field of radiology. By taking steps to overcome language barriers and ensure that patients fully understand their diagnoses and treatment options, radiologists can help to improve patient outcomes and provide the best possible care.

Using Care to Translate in radiology

We work together with several radiology clinics to help provide translation help when an interpreter is not present. Use the app to ask questions, instruct patients and explain next steps.

Do you work in radiology and are interested in knowing more about how to use Care to Translate to overcome language barriers? Book a free demo today.

Reference:an Vuuren, C.J., van Dyk, B. and Mokoena, P.L. (2021) “Overcoming communication barriers in a multicultural radiography setting,” Health SA Gesondheid, 26. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v26i0.1568.