The Need for Language Access During a Pandemic

patients on queue for medical care and language access during a pandemic

Written by Bernadine Racoma

April 15, 2020

People around the world are affected by Coronavirus disease, prompting a need for the proper dissemination of information. It is easier for people speaking different languages to understand the severity of the health crisis if the information is available in their language. Therefore, a language access program for COVID-19 should be immediately available.

The Need for Medical Translation Services

Doctors and public health officials are trying to find ways to inform and educate people regarding the threat of the Coronavirus disease. As the crisis escalates, it is critical for people to understand what social distancing means and why it is essential. Likewise, people should understand the basic hygiene practice to prevent the spread of the virus. Preventing the further spread of the Coronavirus needs the cooperation of everyone. But in countries where there are large immigrant populations, the need to provide information for residents with limited English proficiency or low literacy is vital, otherwise, the possibility of the message getting lost becomes higher.

In many clinics and medical centers, health education materials on COVID-19 in other languages are still scarce. There is a need for information that can be effectively used across cultural norms, literacy levels and languages.

Educational materials on COVID-19 should be culturally appropriate. Otherwise, the intended message may convey the wrong information or be misunderstood and completely ignored.

Ensuring that the right information regarding the Coronavirus disease is available for foreign language speakers, concerned organizations should work closely with professional medical translators. They have experience in the medical or healthcare-related fields. Aside from their linguistic expertise, they understand medical terminology, and have the experience in different medical sectors, allowing the healthcare facilities to choose the right medical translators to work on their translation requirements.

In this time of healthcare crisis, it is critical that people have access to the right information in any language. With the proliferation of fake news, particularly on social media, where misinformation spreads faster than COVID-19, it is vital that people have access to credible information from official channels only. Concerned organizations should conduct a massive information campaign to ensure that people will become aware about COVID-19, what the virus does, how a person is infected, ways to prevent infection, recognizing the symptoms, and what to do in case they feel sick. Inaccurate information and ignorance create panic.

Some of the vital information about the Coronavirus that require translation:

  • Posters illustrating symptoms of Coronavirus infection
  • Letters of COVID-19 patients
  • Screening forms for Coronavirus
  • Coverage updates of the disease
  • COVID-10 factsheets
  • Notices for Coronavirus patients
  • Notices regarding public health
  • Risk assessment forms for healthcare providers

Public information is vital during this latest health crisis, and most of the information about the disease should be available in a language that everyone can quickly understand.

Advantages of Having a Language Access Program

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates healthcare facilities receiving federal aids to provide language access programs to assist the multicultural communities they serve. Moreover, the law states that only professional translators and interpreters can assist patients who have limited proficiency in English.

In the past, close family members and friends can act as translators or interpreters for their relatives who cannot communicate properly in English. But with the many cases of mistranslations that occur in the past, which had drastic results, the U.S. Government expanded the law, with Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stating the details on how to protect the rights of patients. One of the rules prohibits children, other family members and friends, even if they can speak English, to be the patient’s interpreter or translator. Moreover, the law states that the healthcare facility should provide language access in the 15 most spoken languages in their locality.

Likewise, even bilingual staff members are not allowed to act as a translator or interpreter during a consultation under the law, since they are not trained to be an interpreter or translator.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities should work with professional language service providers to ensure that their language access programs meet the needs of the non-English language speakers in the communities they serve.

Providing professional language services will ensure that people with limited English proficiency (LEP) can communicate with their attending physician, understand their diagnosis as well as the doctor’s recommendations and prescriptions.

With the help of professional translators and interpreters, healthcare facilities can prevent misinformation, which can become costly for the patient and medical practitioner.

Collaborators doing medical research and clinical tests can share critical information in different languages, ensuring that everyone can understand the data and test results. Even if the researchers speak English, it is easier to understand technical information in their native language, helping them work better and faster, as they can focus more on their work, instead of spending time to understand a report that is not in their native language.

Professional medical translators understand medical terminology and many of them are experts in the different branches of medicine, ensuring that they can provide accurate translation. Further, medical translators can use the most appropriate words that will make detailed and technical information easier for ordinary people to understand.

Interpreters can work remotely. Patients can request an interpreter in their language and use the interpreter while they are talking with their doctor either by phone or through video.

Call Us – We’re here to help with your medical translation requests

In times of crisis when people need to understand the situation in their language, language service providers are very essential. eTranslation Services has medical translators who live in-country and they can help the exchange of information between researchers, healthcare community, governments, and the public in different languages. Our translators are ready to face the challenge, because we are racing against time and we have to prevent unreliable information from circulating. We are here to provide reliable, accurate and on-time translation of data regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, including clinical trials, research results, hospital data, patient records, orders and directives, and other information to help all stakeholders.

We are with you in the fight against COVID-19 by ensuring that delivery of accurate medical translations wherever you may be. Please get in touch with us by email at [email protected] or give us a call at (800) 882-6058.

 

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