Now that access to quality medical care in the U.S. has become easier under the Affordable Healthcare Act, health providers are increasingly faced with the challenge of treating patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). Fortunately, there are several healthcare translation options that help ensure patients receive information and advice in their native language.


Healthcare translation option #1: In-person

In an ideal world, each patient would have access to a native speaker of their language throughout their medical journey. Patients often use family members to help interpret during medical visits, but the risk of translation error is quite high. Some hospitals provide on-site professional medical interpreters, but staffing for every possible language need is nearly impossible.

In many cases, the cost of professional in-person interpreter services is prohibitive. According to Modern Healthcare, “an American Medical Association survey found that costs of $150 or more for interpreter services often exceeded a physician’s payment for the visit, presenting what the AMA called a ‘significant hardship’ for practices.”


Healthcare translation option #2: Video

In an effort to keep costs down while still providing professional language services, many hospitals are turning to video technology. “West Chester Hospital [in southeast Ohio] since November has used a handful of iPads at patients’ bedsides to access certified translators in over 10 languages through LanguageLine Solutions. The iPads are on wheels and stand about three feet tall, said Rosemary Bake, interpretive services coordinator,” reports Hannah Poturalski of the Journal-News.

Video interpretation is a more cost-effective way for healthcare facilities to provide language services without sacrificing the quality and expertise professional interpreters bring to the table. It also provides access to a wider range of languages without requiring hospitals and doctor’s offices to be staffed with several different in-house interpreters.


Healthcare translation option #3: Written documentation

While in-person or video translation options are helpful, they aren’t practical for every healthcare environment or budget. Furthermore, they’re of little use once the patient leaves the facility. This is where written documentation has a serious edge over other types of language services. 

All 50 states have laws regarding language access in healthcare settings. Some simply require medical providers to provide basic translation services while other state regulations are far more comprehensive. For instance, all California health plans must provide translation and language assistance services to enrollees with limited English proficiency.

As of 2011, hospitals and healthcare facilities seeking accreditation by the Joint Commission must translate all forms, documentation, signage, and patient care instructions into languages appropriate to the community it serves. Written documentation that has been translated by professional linguistic experts is not only the law, it’s an important step in providing safe, quality patient care.

Professional healthcare translation doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Read our case study on how the Avantpage team translated over 600 pages (and 205,000 words!) of English medical documentation into Spanish in just 30 days. You will also want to download our brochure on healthcare translation services.