health care language problems

Language Barriers In Health Care

(Last Updated On: June 9, 2020)

No industry can survive on its own, which is a fact that people don’t often realize. Those who are not familiar with the workings of industry can’t comprehend what needs to happen for the smooth running of things. But when these people come in contact with industry, they get a glimpse of how things are run. For instance, everyone knows that surgery is complicated, but no one understands how many experts have to come together to make it possible. Without the anesthesiologist, surgery would not even begin. There are hundreds of different types of experts in the healthcare industry who have to work together to make things running, but most people only appreciate the doctors and nurses. A janitor keeping the hospital clean is doing its part to keep the patients safe and healthy.

Language Barriers in Health Care:

There are hurdles in every industry that its experts have to cross to get to success. The intensity of the difficulties varies depending on various aspects. Some problems are natural that cannot be prevented by humans, like an earthquake destroying the building of a hospital. Other problems belong to the kind that can be both predicted and prevented by humans with effective planning. One such problem is the linguistic barriers that patients and healthcare staff have to deal with from time to time. In the US, more than 50 million people speak a native language other than English. At least 14 million of these people cannot speak English. This creates a language problem in many industries.

Here are the language barriers in the healthcare industry:

language barriers health care
  • Patient-Doctor Relationship:

Long term patients must have a strong relationship with their doctors so they can explain their issues easily. No one would feel comfortable discussing their problems in an unfamiliar language. A lot of people who speak English as their second language, resort to their native tongue whenever they are in distress. If they are asked to speak in English during their visit to the doctor, they will feel uncomfortable. They might even withhold information from the healthcare professionals because expressing the problem in English sounds crass to them.

  • Miscommunication:

If someone is not fluent in English, but they have no other option other than speaking it, they will not be able to discuss their health problems adequately. This can lead to creating a lot of problems for both sides. If all of the medical issues are not conveyed to the doctor, proper treatment will not begin. This can directly affect the health of the patient who will not get proper treatment.

  • Misinformation:

Sometimes, people forget one word in their second language and replace it with another word. However, as a non-native speaker, this might not work every time. Sometimes, a speaker might replace a word with something that means completely different. This can create a lot of confusion for both the doctor and the patient. When patients can’t remember a word, they can replace it with the first option that comes to their mind. However, if it is the wrong option, then that will affect communication with healthcare professionals.

  • Report Sharing:

People have to get tested for diseases frequently. Sometimes, the test reports are quite complicated, while other times, they are simple enough for everyone to understand easily. But when patients wish to share their reports with foreign professionals for a second opinion, the language barrier can stand in their way. If the report isn’t in a universal language like English, the doctor could have trouble in understanding it.

  • Research Problems:

Medical researchers find cures for diseases, which proves how important their work is. However, the linguistic barrier can create problems for researchers. If something comes in between the information sharing procedure, it can keep medical science for succeeding. This will ultimately lead to the reign of diseases on our planet. Humans will suffer if medical research fails to continue properly.

health care barriers language

How to Overcome the Language Barrier?

The healthcare industry has its own language that cannot be understood by outsiders, and it isn’t just limited to the hurried prescriptions that doctors write. This is why special experts are needed to help people overcome the linguistic barrier in the healthcare industry. Many hospitals are taking a different approach to overcome this barrier. Some of them have been providing language training to the interns because they know that only people with a medical background can perform translations in the field.

A few options for hospitals include hiring interpreters for regular assistance and turning to professional service providers for accurate translations. This way, people can get the help they require and discuss their health problems with the doctor easily. Professional experts can help with the reports and allow the doctors to make the right diagnosis. There are a lot of agencies that offer services for the healthcare industry, but hospitals must do their research first before hiring an expert. Once they are certain that a company will be able to help them, they can request the services. They can also sign a contract for a more permanent connection. This way, they will get regular discounts and receive their translations on time.

By overcoming the linguistic barrier, doctors can connect with the patients. Medical problems can be shared without hesitation, and their solutions can be found easily. Translation will help doctors read reports of foreign patients. Above all, important research can be exchanged between experts, and cures of different diseases can be found easily.

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