Study: 3 Causes of Medical Errors Due to Language Barriers
A new study published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality identified high-risk clinical situations where medical errors are most likely to occur among limited English proficiency patients and investigates tools that can help prevent those situations.
The study assessed two new evidence-based Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality tools for limited English proficiency patient safety. The tools are "Improving Patient Safety Systems for Limited English Proficient Patients: A Guide for Hospitals," which contains recommendations to improve detection and prevention of medical errors across diverse populations, and "TeamSTEPPS Enhancing Safety for Patients with Limited English Proficiency Module," which trains staff to improve safety through team communication and incorporating interpreters in the care process.
Three common causes of medical errors due to insufficient patient language proficiency were identified, including:
1. Use of family members, friends or non-qualified staff as interpreters.
2. Clinicians with basic foreign language skill who try to communicate without using qualified interpreters.
3. Cultural beliefs and traditions that effect healthcare delivery.
Also, situations in which medical errors were most likely to occur because of language barriers include medication reconciliation, patient discharge and the informed consent process.
"Both tools were found to be implementable, acceptable to their audiences and conducive to learning. Further research on the impact of the combined use of the guide and module would shed light on their value as a multifaceted intervention," noted the study authors.
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