Interpreters boost patient satisfaction

By Maureen McKinney
Posted: July 31, 2010 – 12:01 am ET

Providing skilled, professional interpreters to patients whose first language is not English in emergency departments boosts patient satisfaction and could reduce wait times and lower the odds of medical error, according to the results of a new study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Patients who were assigned an interpreter were four times as likely to report satisfaction with their ED visit as patients who did not, according to the study’s authors.

“The results were the same for physicians and nurses, which could be important for reducing staff burnout and errors,” Ann Bagchi, the study’s lead author and a senior health researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton, N.J., said in a news release.

Interpreters may also prove to be an effective tool for improving patient safety because they enhance patient-provider communication, help shorten hospital stays and ease the discharge process, according to the study.

“Using the same interpreter from triage to discharge creates continuity of care and also ensures that we are not missing anything important when talking to the patient,” Robert Eisenstein, vice chairman of the emergency medicine department at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., and co-author of the study, said in the release.