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Keywords:

  • interpretation;
  • language;
  • outpatient clinics;
  • communication barriers;
  • Hispanic Americans;
  • patient satisfaction

OBJECTIVE: To describe the utilization of various methods of language interpretation by Spanish-speaking patients in an academic medical clinic and to determine patients' and physicians' satisfaction with these methods.

METHODS: Survey administered to medical residents and Spanish-speaking patients asking about their experience and satisfaction with various methods of language interpretation.

MAIN RESULTS: Both patients and residents had the highest level of satisfaction for professional interpreters (92.4% vs 96.1% reporting somewhat or very satisfactory, p = .17). In contrast, patients were significantly more satisfied than residents with using family members and friends (85.1% vs 60.8%, p< .01). Physicians and patients agreed that accuracy, accessibility, and respect for confidentiality were highly important characteristics of interpreters (>90% of both groups reporting somewhat or very important). However, patients were more concerned than residents about the ability of the interpreter to assist them after the physician visit (94% vs 45.1%, p< 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Using family members and friends as interpreters for Spanish-speaking patients should be more seriously considered; however, in order to optimize patient satisfaction, differences between patients and providers should be taken into account when using interpretation in medical settings.