Healthy Living

Medical Interpreting: Understanding the Language

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Personal health is a necessity to our daily functioning. Ensuring that our bodies and minds, our physical and mental states, are not only functioning but excelling is an endeavor that we all should strive to uphold. One of the best ways for ensuring so is through medical care. 

Medical care is an essential format of personal health care. It is what gives us access to the tests, regulations, therapies, surgeries, medicines, and other tools that help in the process of the recovery and maintenance of our bodies. Because of this, it’s important that there are as few barriers as possible to gaining access to that care, be it financial, economic, or even interpretational.

In fact, the latter is what I wish to discuss upon in this article. One of the more common factors in medical care is interpretation. Cultures throughout the world are many in number and even more varied. The same can be said for their languages as well, as there are currently over 7,000 different languages and dialects spoken across the world. Though no matter the number,  it’s important that anyone that seeks medical help should have access to it, and one of the best ways to tackle the language barrier is through medical interpretation. 

. For more information on the practice, please visit sites such as to be better informed.

What is Medical Interpretation?

Medical interpretation is another term that can be used to describe a translator in the medical field. A medical interpreter is responsible for orally translating medical information from one language to another. They are in many ways the bridge between healthcare and the patient, with their interpretation skills being the way to traverse it. 

Medical interpreters are linguistic experts, ones who have the proper certification and can speak at the very least 2 different languages. It is a requirement that they have expert communication skills, and along with them an expert ear in listening and informing both parties on any information that is important to know for both the patient and the medical care professional. This of course includes not only medical, but also cultural information, so as not to proceed with a procedure or treatment that may go against one’s beliefs or practices. 

(More information on medical interpretation can be found here)

Why is it Important?

Medical interpretation, as stated above, is crucial to lowering the language and cultural barrier between the doctors and the patients. Without it, there is a severe risk in misinterpreting information that may very well be crucial for either party to know. There is also the risks of medical errors, ones that can be severe in threat for the patient. Having medical interpreters on hand help prevent such risks, along with providing excellent and quality healthcare available without any unnecessary risk or danger.

A person using a stethoscope to a person

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Where is it Needed?

Medical interpretation is needed in many scenarios, no matter the time or the place. Some of these scenarios can include:

  • Patient consent
  • Physical examinations
  • Communicating symptoms, questions, or concerns
  • Discussing potential treatment options
  • Discharge orders

It is also needed to translate and provide written information as well, such as:

  • Medical records
  • Legal documentation
  • Health issues
  • Family history and charts
  • Patient history and charts

Code of Ethics

The practice of medical interpretation requires a regulation of rules and conduct to ensure professional and moral conduct in the profession. More information on these rules of conduct can be found online at the Code of Ethics created by the National Council, but the majority of regulations require confidentiality, impartialness, accuracy, cultural and linguistic competence, and professional practice and development. 

Different Types of Medical Interpretation

In present times, medical interpretation can be given in two primary ways: in-person, or remote. In addition to this, it can also be given in different formats of those ways. They include the following:

  • On-site– is conducted at the health care facility or at the home of the patient. This ensures the best format of medical interpretation is given, giving interpreters the ability to observe and point out certain nonverbal cues and actions that wouldn’t be possible to interpret over the phone. This is widely regarded as the best way to provide medical interpretation. 
  • Telephone– is conducted over a mobile phone line. This involved the interpreter and the patient having a conversation to help facilitate the transfer of medical and cultural information from them to the medical care facilitators.
  • Video– is conducted on a video conference call between the patient, interpreter, and healthcare provider. It is a viable method for medical interpretation, which provides the interpreter with the same access to pointing out nonverbal cues and actions that they would have from an on-site communication. 

Conclusion The access to medical care should have as few barriers between the healthcare provider and the patient as possible. Medical interpretation is an efficient method to lower many of those barriers; providing an essential dialogue between not only medical and health information, but also cultural and human exchange.

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