As far as medical interpretation is concerned, one may assume it’s just hearing and interpreting a word into another language that is required, no, the medical field is too technical when it comes to providing interpretation services for doctors and patients because it’s all about dealing with lives and the health of individuals. There is too much care needed when interpreting medical jargons, terminologies into a target language.
The Major Causes of Medical Errors
Let’s see and discuss the major causes of medical errors during the interpretations by the medical interpreters.
Cultural beliefs and tradition; most cultures are too complicated which impacts medical service delivery in such communities, so to deliver medical services in such a community you must ensure you get medical translators and interpreters who can abide by the cultural beliefs and rules in that community because they will be knowing how to deal with their cultural beliefs. Some culture and beliefs do not allow females to conduct speeches in public; when operating a medical clinic in a particular community, you must get to know how their cultural beliefs and norm are such that it becomes easier to provide interpreting services, failure to do that you may make mistakes that may end up causing medical errors in the medical interpretation.
Using family members as translators and interpreters, this is also too dangerous, due to fear of paying for professional medical interpreters or translators, medical services providers may resort to using the patient’s family members or the patient’s caretakers who may be fluent in English to provide medical interpretation, as we all know that being fluent in English is not enough for somebody to be a medical translator of interpreter, because of the technicality of medical terminologies, a caretaker can’t accurately interpret medical terminologies due to lack of knowledge about it, let’s assume you have no knowledge in the medical field, and you are given to interpret, the doctor mentions a statement that you’ve never heard of in life, can you manage to understand that statement and interpret into a layman language?
Use of clinicians who have the basic foreign language skills to communicate with patients and doctors instead of qualified medical interpreters, medical services providers might resort to use of clinician who may have a little knowledge in a particular language understood by the patient. Medical interpretations need fluent native speaking medical interpreters and translators of the respective language so as to be accurate, but because a clinician who is a Japanese speaker knows some little French is given to act as an interpreter between the doctor and the French-speaking patient, there is no way that interpretation will be free from misinterpretation of some words.
Areas where medical errors may occur
Medical errors are always common in medical areas like;
• Admission forms
• Patient discharge reports
• Medical reconciliation
• Emergency department visits and surgical care
Possible ways to avoid medical errors in medical interpretation
To avoid medical errors, medical service providers should focus on strengthening professional medical interpretation services, doctors and patients should be able to communicate and understand each other, they should also provide already translated materials in several foreign languages for the targeted users, cultural awareness and advocacy, improving medical staff training and etc.
The use of the patient’s specific identity, this will help to ensure that the medical interpreter is given the right medical information for the respective patient for interpretation. If any mistake happens that different information about the medical prescriptions is interpreted for a different patient, medical errors have to occur; hence the medical history of the patient bearing the name of the patient, admission date, is necessary since it includes the medicine prescribed for the patient.
Avoiding medical errors in the interpretation process is partly the role of the patient, a patient is supposed to present all the previous medical reports, including all the drugs that were used, this can help the doctor to know what next step to opted if a particular medicine didn’t work, otherwise the doctor may give back the same medication prescription which during the process of interpretation, processed in exact format and meaning. In addition to that a patient should also be careful and observant to know which drugs can problems to his/her health. This basically letting the informed about the medicines that the patient is allergic to because, during the interpretation process, the interpreter’s work is to speak what the doctor mentions.
Medical errors can be avoided if the doctor’s prescriptions to the patient can clearly be understood by the interpreter, hence the interpreter should be sharp, attentive and a good listener when the doctor is talking to the patient, this can make the interpretation accurate and successful with any minor error that may cause problems to the patient’s life.