Professional Interpreter Use Among Limited English Proficiency Patients in the Emergency Department

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Conference Proceeding

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Publication Title

Acad Emerg Med


Background: Patients who do not speak English well may rely on the use of family members or professional interpreters for communication. Our primary objective was to assess the communication preferences of patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) presenting in an emergency department (ED). Methods: This was a prospective observational study that was performed in an urban academic ED. The inclusion criteria were patients 18 years of age and older with LEP. Spanish and Arabic subjects were enrolled and given a questionnaire in their native language to complete. Some questions were based upon a 5- point Likert. These answers were converted to a numerical scale from 0-5 with 0 equating to strongly disagree and 5 equating to strongly agree. Differences in categorical variable response distributions were tested via chi-square and Fisher's exact tests, and differences in continuous variables mean responses were tested via Welch's independent t-tests and ANOVA tests. Results: Among subjects enrolled (N=336), the mean age was 37.9 + 12.22 with 64% female and 36% male subjects. 72% primarily spoke Spanish and 28% were Arabic speakers. 27% of patients used a professional interpreter, 41% used family, and 24% spoke English to communicate with their health care provider. 37% of subjects did not know professional interpreter services were available to them. Subjects who used a family interpreter in comparison to a professional interpreter were less likely to know that professional interpreter services were available to them (46% vs 26% p=0.009). 44% of all subjects did not know professional interpreter services were free of charge and there was no significant difference between cohorts (p=0.608). Subjects who had family interpret for them agreed more strongly that family could interpret accurately for them (4.26 + 1.08, p+ 1.08). Subjects that used family to interpret for them responded (3.94 + 1.08) that they were more likely request a professional interpreter during their next ED visit. Conclusion: Among LEP patients, many are unaware that professional interpreting services are available. Patients using family members as interpreters are less likely to be aware of professional interpreter services. Although patients agree that family can interpret accurately for them, they may rather prefer a professional interpreter to communicate with their health care provider.



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