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Hospital Emergency Departments Can Reduce Errors by Using Interpreters, Study Finds

Posted by Paul Levin | Aug 04, 2012 | 0 Comments

For hospital patients who speak limited English, miscommunication between hospital staff and doctors is a serious risk with potentially dire consequences. A misunderstood word or phrase could lead to an incorrect diagnosis or prescription error. A recent study reviewed cases of emergency room visits by patients with limited English proficiency, and concluded that the use of trained interpreters in such situations can dramatically reduce the number of errors.

The researchers, who published their findings in the online edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine on March 19, 2012, reviewed visits to emergency rooms by patients and families with limited English proficiency. They focused their review on Massachusetts' two largest pediatric emergency departments, covering a period of thirty months. They identified fifty-seven qualifying emergency room visits within that time period. By reviewing audio recordings of those fifty-seven visits, they identified 1,884 errors in interpretation and determined that eighteen percent of those errors had “potential clinical consequences.”

About the Author

Paul Levin

Attorney Levin was admitted to practice law in the State of Connecticut beginning 1989 and in New York Federal district court beginning 1992. He is a member of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, Connecticut Bar Association, and the National Association for American Justice. Prior to establishing his own law firm, Attorney Levin was associated with the...


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