Translators in the ER May Decrease Medical Errors

Professional interpreters in hospital emergency rooms may help decrease the risk of medical errors, according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of 57 audiotaped emergency department visits at two pediatric emergency departments in Massachusetts over a 30-month period. Of these audiotaped events, 20 included pnrofessional interpreters, 27 included ad hoc interpreters and 10 had no interpreters. The researchers then compared the incidence of medical errors from using an interpreter and not using an interpreter.


Of the 57 events, researchers noted 1,884 errors, 18 percent of which had potential clinical consequences. Most of these errors stemmed from either using an ad hoc or no interpreter. Professional interpreters with more training were associated with lower incidence of medical errors. The researchers concluded use of professional interpreters in emergency departments may help stave off medical errors and reduce harm caused to patients.

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