Interpreters in ER Reduce Medical Errors

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According to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, having professional translators on staff may limit miscommunications between patients and medical staff in the ER. The study found that mistakes with “clinical consequences” were twice as likely to occur if the hospital ER no interpreters or amateur interpreters to translate for the non-English speaking patient.

The study, which was conducted with primarily Spanish speaking families, found that 12 percent of translation errors could have been a potential risk to a child but when the translator was a family member or a non-professional translator the potentially risky errors went up to 22 percent. Interpreters with at least 100 hours of training were found to have the lowest error rate with only two percent of errors being potentially harmful to a child.

In one example of an error, the amateur translator told the ER medical staff that the child patient was not on any medications and was not allergic to any medications when in fact he never ever asked the mother of the child whether this was true.

Though the findings of this study suggest that having professional translators on staff in the ER could make a big difference, there are few programs available for medical translators to get medical training.

The Chicago personal injury law firm of Zneimer & Zneimer has staff that is fluent in Spanish, Russian and Bulgarian to assist clients. Contact us for a free personal injury consultation.

The attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer have read the emergency room records of Spanish speaking clients and noted if there was not a translator available on staff in the ER there are frequent errors in the ER records regarding the history of the injury.

Incorrect ER records have a direct consequence for any personal injury claim against a negligent party, since that parties insurance company has a reason to deny the claim if there is a contradiction between how the injured person says he or she was injured and what the ER records state. For example, the Chicago injury law firm of Zneimer & Zneimer handled a slip & fall injury case where a Spanish speaking client fell down staircase in a friend’s apartment building and broke her leg because there was little or no light in the stairway and there were no handrails which is a violation of the Chicago Municipal Building Code.

Even though the fall was witnessed by her friend and an independent witness and even though ambulance personnel found our client at the bottom of the stairs with a broken leg, the insurance company for the landlord refused to settle the case because the ER records stated that our client “fell in the park”. The ER did not have anyone who was fluent in Spanish available and the history was mistranslated which resulted in a delay in compensation for our client.

If you or a loved one have experienced a similar situation and need to know your legal rights contact expert lawyers Zneimer & Zneimer p.c. for a free personal injury consultation.