Language Barriers in Health Care

Randy Nieves-Ruiz of wrote an interesting article in Newsweek The Language of Care. The article discusses the challenges faced by non-English speaking patients seeking health care in the US.

The article does a nice job of summarizing some of the most typical political questions about this issue but it also takes the viewpoint of the actual immigrants when trying to seek medical assistance. For the sake of this post I will not address the political aspects of the debate but focus on the language issues.

No matter what your political beliefs lead you to believe we have many medical facilities in cities all across the US that have to provide medical care to immigrants from multiple countries. This is an immediate concern for health professionals working in schools, hospitals, physician’s offices, and call centers for major health insurance carriers. Here in Chicago we typically see patients with language needs in Spanish, Korean, Polish, and Russian while in Wisconsin, Spanish and Hmong seem to be most prevalent.

This is not a simple problem, but if all of the companies, facilities, and individuals (including translators and language service providers like Argo) make some small contributions to address the issue we will at least help to provide better health care to more individuals.

The bottom line is that this is a human issue. There are people who need access to quality health care and we must do what we can to help overcome this language barrier.

In the coming months, we will provide some useful tools and articles to help overcome the language barrier. Our first tool is a basic Patient Intake form provided in Spanish and English. You can read about the press release in the news section of our site under Argo Translation, Inc. Responds to Poor Translation in the Healthcare Industry with a Free Solution.

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