When you have health problems, clear communication with health care providers is important to understand treatment. And while medical jargon may sound like its own language, for the estimated 25 million people in the U.S. with very little English proficiency, it’s harder to find health care that speaks their language .
Dr. Pilar Ortega, a medical educator who focuses on medical Spanish and a researcher on physician communication in non-English languages at Illinois University of Chicago Medicine, says that having patients is not just an option for patients to have. -clinics who understand them.
“Our research shows that it affects patient outcomes. You can have better clinical outcomes – for example, better blood sugar control if you have diabetes – if your doctor speaks the same language as you, ”said Ortega. “So we’re not just talking [that] it feels good to have a doctor who speaks your language (which is true!) it also affects your health. “
Dr. Jonathan Moreira, a hematologist, oncologist and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says today’s technology is helping some to close the gap.
“Mobile services can provide easily accessible, flexible language services in mobile and in-patient settings. Providing personal interpreting services can be more challenging, especially in protected and / or rural areas, but they are ideal as they can also put body language into context, ” said Moreira.
Ortega says COVID-19 has provided a clear example of how language barriers contribute to health care outcomes.
“If we don’t get the information in our language, or at least we don’t get it in a timely manner – information will oftentimes be translated from English and it will take a long time before it becomes available in English. languages - and as a result these numbers may not have access to the same reliable information from public health authorities as the English-speaking population, ”said Ortega. “This goes into mistrust, as there is a real lack of information, and as a result, it could allow other sources of misinformation and deconstruction to take a bigger role. in these communities due to the lack of other sources of information. So doctors and other health professionals communicate with patients in their language in a timely manner, especially in cases like this, which certainly affects the uptake of the vaccine. “
Moreira believes that the best way to instil trust in long-term medical professionals is for these professionals to reflect the communities they serve.
“There may be a misunderstanding about how patients or members of the community see treatment as antibiotics or their belief in other treatments or, in my own field as an oncologist, in the role of chemotherapy and their understanding on side effects too, “said Moreira.” So… we need to have a deep understanding of the cultural nurses and the values and perspectives of our patients, and it is one of the most effective has done so by hiring doctors and health care professionals who reflect that cultural diversity. “