Communication is the most important factor in the provision of health care services. Describing symptoms, discussing results and giving informed consent are all essential.

A large body of research shows that language barriers cause numerous issues in health care provision. Being unable to communicate clearly with medical professionals can result in misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment plans and a failure to seek appointments for routine screening.

Healthcare Interpreting


Specialist health care interpreters, with recognized qualifications from the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), are a vital service to overcome this barrier. A 2005 study found that trained professional interpreters positively affect patients’ satisfaction, quality of care and outcomes.

Emergency treatment

Emergency medical situations can confuse people; even when they treated in their native language. Not understanding what the doctor is saying during an exam, while connected to monitors emitting sound signals and intravenous drops, leads to an additional level of stress that makes treatment difficult.

Health care interpreting services performed by a professional with in-depth knowledge and expertise helps to alleviate stress. It allows the patient to accurately describe symptoms and relevant medical background. Accurate diagnosis requires detailed questioning. A specialist interpreter who can portray the relevant information doesn’t just ensure correct treatment. They can also provide comfort and reassurance during a very worrying situation.

Long-term care

Accurate understanding of what we expect, both from the patient and the provider, is important in the planning of long-term care. Recovering from an illness, slowly returning to normal after an accident or dealing with a new diagnosis all need detailed treatment plans. Trying to do too much too soon or misunderstanding a medication schedule can have serious consequences. A qualified health care interpreter ensures that every element of health care planning is understood.

Routine screening

Early diagnosis can successfully treat many serious conditions. However, research shows that people fail to make appointments for routine screening due to language barriers. Registering with a doctor, calling hospitals and other health care providers and speaking to medical professionals during tests can be daunting at the best of times. Unfortunately, too many people stop seeking treatment simply because they struggle to communicate.

A professional medical interpreter isn’t available just to attend appointments. They can also help to arrange medical cover, discuss medical history and make appointments with the relevant providers.

Mental health care

Not all health care requirements are physical. Living with mental health issues can be distressing. Symptoms can be vague, but incredibly debilitating. Being unable to communicate with people who are in a position to help can have a profound negative effect during an already-difficult time.

Medical interpreters have experience in supporting people with mental health issues. They are tactful, discreet and sympathetic. Providing gentle encouragement; alongside ensuring the correct treatment is sought and provided, can help with recovery.

Often, people require counseling and therapy as a result of physical or emotional violence. An experienced interpreter who has knowledge of this very sensitive area, as well as the medical terminology required, can help to guide people through these upsetting times.

Supporting others

When a relative requires medical treatment or end of life care it can be a very upsetting time. If language is a barrier to being involved in care, the experience is even more difficult.

When a medical professional performs home visits for sick or elderly relatives or carries out daily assessments in hospital or hospice care, interpreters can help ensure everyone understands what’s happening. Ensuring informed consent is granted for procedures and compliance with all legal aspects of treatment; it is even more important if the patient himself is not aware of the circumstances.

Certified interpreters

In an area as sensitive as health care, it’s vital to appoint a specially trained, fully qualified and industry accredited interpreter. CCHI administers a comprehensive certification program to ensure medical interpreters operate at an acceptable level. CCHI operates strict standards and has an online registry of accredited professionals.


Appointing a medical interpreter requires as much care and importance as choosing a medical practitioner. Health is something that can’t be left to chance.


You can also learn more about CCHI by visiting our blog entry Path to Medical Interpreter certification

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