US: More Than 50 Percent of Doctors Provide Interpreters


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More Than 50 Percent of Doctors Provide Interpreters

According to a report recently released by the Center for Studying Health System Change, physicians in private practice are making slow and erratic progress in addressing the language needs of their patients. In a nationwide survey of 4,700 doctors, the nonprofit Center found that 55.8 percent of practices with non-English speaking patients provide interpreting services and 40 percent offer patient-education materials in languages other than English. Just four in 10 physicians have received cultural competency training that would prepare them to understand and better care for minority populations. The Center's study also found that a practice's ability to offer interpreting and other multicultural services varies by size. Roughly 33 percent of solo and two-physician groups offered interpreting services. In larger group practices, the services were provided 75 percent of the time. Doctors who accept patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or the Children's Health Insurance Program are required by law to offer interpreter services, although exceptions exist for smaller practices and those with few non-English speaking patients. "The law is very uneven and muddied in terms of the [interpreter] requirements of providers," said James D. Reschovsky, lead author of the report and a senior health researcher at the Center. "So the bottom line is that this is not going to happen until somebody puts up the resources to support this." In 2006, the American Medical Association said there were 20 million patients with limited English skills. The association says that non-English speaking patients see health care providers less frequently, receive less preventive care, and have more trouble following doctors' orders. Consequently, treatment is less successful than in the English-speaking patient population.

From "Interpreter Services Offered at More Than Half of Physician Practices"
American Medical News (IL) (03/02/10) O'Reilly, Kevin B.

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - March 2010
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