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Language Barrier Can Get in the Way of Proper Care

April 29, 2002|MARGARET RAMIREZ | NEWSDAY

NEW YORK — Hospital patients who speak little English face a much greater risk of medical error or misdiagnosis if they are not provided with an interpreter, a new study warns.

The Brandeis University report, released Thursday, is based on a survey of 4,161 uninsured people with limited English proficiency who were treated between May and August of 2000 at 23 hospitals in 16 cities.

Health researchers compared the experiences of 3,557 uninsured patients who do not require an interpreter's help with those of 604 patients who do.

The study, "What a Difference an Interpreter Can Make: Health Care Experiences of Uninsured with Limited English Proficiency," found that patients with limited English skills who are not supplied an interpreter at the point of service are far more likely to misunderstand instructions for the use of medications. The report called that the most significant risk.

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