Most Pediatricians Do Not Hire Professional Interpreters for Bilingual Patients, Study Finds
Seventy percent of pediatricians rely on patients' family members rather than interpreters to provide language services, according to a study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Baltimore Examiner reports. For the report, lead author Dennis Kuo, a general pediatrics fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and colleagues surveyed 1,829 physicians from the American Academy of Pediatrics and found that 58% of physicians use bilingual staff members and 40% use professional interpreters to provide language services. According to the Examiner, many physicians choose not to employ a professional interpreter because of reimbursement concerns. Kuo said, "Doctors can't charge patients for the services, so they are burdened with the cost." Most insurance companies do not cover interpretation services, and only a few states provide doctors reimbursement for providing the services for patients covered under public health insurance. Kuo said, "This is about training interpreters to do medical interpreting well. A medical term in one language may have no direct translation in another language," adding, "We know that proper language services are linked with better health care outcomes; we need to reduce the burden on health care providers" (Ulman, Baltimore Examiner, 4/3).
An abstract of the study is available online.