Kids Should Be in School, Not Your Patient’s Exam Room

Kids Should Be in School, Not Your Patient’s Exam Room

Providing high-quality medical care to patients who speak a different language from you is a challenge. Exams and appointments tend to take longer, and you may never be sure your diagnosis, treatment plan, and care instructions were completely understood. That’s why a highly qualified medical interpreter is such an asset in the exam room.

But some providers believe finding an interpreter is more trouble than it’s worth, especially if the patient has brought along a family member to their appointment. Relying on friends and family especially children for accurate medical interpreting is a serious mistake. Here’s why.

Using a Professional Medical Interpreter Is Required by Law

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requires that providers who receive federal funds (Medicare or Medicaid) must provide a trained interpreter for patients with limited English proficiency. If your facility receives reimbursement for Medicare or Medicaid patients, you are legally required to provide professional, high-quality medical interpreters for your patients whose primary language is one other than English.

Children Acting as Interpreters and Untrained Individuals Increase the Risk of Errors and Poor Outcomes

The risk of using a child as a medical interpreter is so great that several states have made it illegal for medical providers to ask children to interpret medical conversations. Children have limited understanding of adult issues or medical language, which can lead to interpretation errors and omission of vital information. Children may feel embarrassed about talking about intimate issues regarding their parents, which can also lead to misunderstanding and errors.

Asking a Child to Interpret Strains the Parent-Child Relationship

When you ask a child to provide interpretation for a parent or older family member, it flips the family roles. You are asking a child to fulfill an adult role. This can strain the relationship between the child and their loved one and put additional stress on the family as they deal with a difficult diagnosis or complicated treatment plan.

Using children as interpreters in the medical office is a risky endeavor that increases the chance of medical error and poor patient outcomes. It puts unnecessary strain on the parent-child relationship, too.

Instead, hire a highly qualified medical interpreter to support you and your patients. Qualified interpreters understand medical language, the importance of confidentiality, and are objective third-parties who will not omit or use euphemisms to impart sensitive or distressing news. While many interpreters work on-site, many others are accessible over the phone or through video chat. Technology has made it effortless to use a professional interpreter in the exam room.

Finding a highly qualified medical interpreter is easy. Contact Intelligere to access interpreters who support more than 200 languages, including ASL.