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Insights

Leverage Bilingual Staff to Minimize Risk and Increase Patient Satisfaction

Wednesday, November 7, 2018
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Would you like to attract and retain top talent while improving your patients’ experience? Bilingual staff medical-interpreter testing and training can do just that while reducing your costs for language services and speeding up access to quality services. Top talent prefers to work in environments that are organized and have higher rates of client satisfaction and success. A well-managed hospital language services department can have a huge impact on a medical facility’s success.

Importance of Professionally Trained Medical Interpreters in Healthcare

You may have bilingual staff who can prove very helpful when treating non-English-speaking patients. But translation is a delicate matter, and one that needs to be handled by a professional with a medical interpreter certification. Many bilingual staff don’t have experience discussing medical terminology in their other languages and can therefore make critical mistakes. The same way medical professionals need years of education to ensure quality care, medical translators also require training and certification.

Language Services Affect Patient Readmission Rate and Overall Patient Satisfaction

Imagine going to a hospital in a foreign country, where no one around you speaks your language. You do your best to explain your situation, where the pain is, how long it has been going on, but the person listening only partially understands. You are given a diagnosis that only partially makes sense to you. You have more questions but the professional only repeats what they said before. You are given a medication with directions on the bottle in a foreign language. How well would you rate your experience? Statistically, mistakes can be twice as likely to happen when a family member or bilingual medical staff member does translation instead of a professionally trained medical interpreter.

First, medical professionals need to accurately admit patients by understanding their symptoms and medical history. No detail should be overlooked, meaning a thorough understanding is needed of the patient’s information. If a few words are omitted from what the medical professional understands, the entire message of what the patient says may change.

Beyond language, culture also comes into play. For example, some cultures may not feel comfortable working with a medical professional who is a different gender. This may impact the questions they feel comfortable asking or the information they honestly provide. When these factors are considered, and the medical professional is qualified to translate and understand their patients, patients can be properly treated in that same visit, meaning fewer readmissions and better overall patient satisfaction. Communication is key to any good relationship.

Test Staff’s Language Proficiency Before Considering Them an Interpreter

Bilingual staff are a fantastic asset to have. However, management who don’t speak both languages can only assume their competency with translation. Also, a staff member who speaks Spanish from Spain may not understand a Spanish-speaking client from Chile as well; their words may mean different things. This is where the usefulness of a Language Proficiency Exam comes in.

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Why assume the skills of multilingual staff when training and certifications are in place to ensure the quality of their translations? Have all bilingual or multilingual staff take a language proficiency test and then move forward with training or certification. Ensuring the quality of the language services offered will attract and retain staff while increasing patient satisfaction.

What Medical Interpreter Training Includes and the Benefits

Bilingual staff must first pass a language proficiency exam to qualify for Medical Interpreter Training. Next, 40 hours of Medical Interpreter Training are required before one can apply to take a national qualifying exam such as the CCHI Medical Interpreter Certification. An application must be submitted with documents proving eligibility. Once the application is approved, the exam must be scheduled and a study guideline or training handbook is provided.

When medical staff are interpreter-certified, the benefits are numerous and include risk management becoming more secure, readmission rates reducing, and patient satisfaction and compliance increasing; plus, there is a systematic method in place to rate and assure the quality of the hospital’s language services.

How to Attract and Retain Staff While Increasing Patient Satisfaction

Interpretation testing and training for bilingual employees could build the hospital’s internal capacity to serve a quickly growing multilingual population. With satisfaction levels higher, patients are easier to manage and staff-patient interactions flow smoothly. Miscommunication wastes time, so with accredited interpreters on your staff, there is less time lost.

When patients are diagnosed and treated correctly the first time around, re-admittance levels drop, resulting in more time for the staff to see each patient and less stress. Happy employees make for more productive employees. Existing staff are more likely to stay at a job that allows them better quality of life, and a higher caliber staff will begin to seek out working at a hospital with a manageable work flow. Interpretation testing and training is a win-win for all parties involved.

The United States is looking more multilingual every year. Hospitals in large multinational cities, such as New York City, have already implemented interpretation testing as well as staff interpretation training and accreditation. Reach out for more information today and set your hospital’s system on a better track for the future.

About the Author
Annie Pagano is the marketing coordinator for Interpreters and Translators, Inc. (iTi), a multicultural language solution provider. iTi supports over 200 languages across a variety of industries. Annie grew up in a multilingual home and spent a large amount of her childhood on the island of Puerto Rico, which sparked her passion for language and understanding the complexities of interpretation and translation. She has worked in the language service industry for over 10 years and is passionate about bringing people and businesses together, no matter their language or background.
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