The capacity of healthcare professionals to communicate efficiently is crucial to providing high-quality healthcare and maintaining patient safety. However, language barriers commonly occur between patients and healthcare providers if they do not share a native language (Al Shamsi et al., 2020). Nevertheless, doctors and nurses have to deliver high-quality healthcare that observes equity to all their patients and human rights principles. Besides, some health differences, such as unequal treatment associated with language, can be related to unequal health outcomes and imbalanced access to healthcare. According to Al Shamsi et al. (2020), patients who do not understand local languages are disadvantaged in health service access. Moreover, these patients are like to have poorer health outcomes, unlike those who speak the local language.
Pros of Doctors Learning New Languages
Hospital healthcare professionals consider the language barrier a source of workplace stress and a barrier to delivering the highest quality healthcare. According to Al Shamsi et al., (2020), 30% of patients who receive treatment from doctors who do not understand their native language are likely to have a problem understanding the instructions. Other studies showed that 49% of the patients who do not speak the local language are likely to be confused about understanding the medical situation or how to use the medication. This situation encourages doctors to learn new languages to promote more understanding with their patients. Furthermore, patients with language are likely to have difficulty arranging an appointment and even miss some of the medical works (Al Shamsi et al., 2020). However, to break the language barrier issues, doctors must start learning different languages to understand the foreign language and cultures to offer better services.
Improving interpreter services is vital in enhancing satisfaction in healthcare and reducing the overall cost to the patient. More importantly, the use of professional interprets is likely to reduce the barrier of communication. Although language interpretation requires a particular skill, research has shown that their errors are significantly lower than those made by untrained staff, friends, or families. Furthermore, in-person person interpretation has improved the communication process, satisfaction, and outcome of doctor-patient communication (Karline et al., 2018). Professional interpreters have seemed to understand patients’ cultural and social backgrounds better, thereby easing the facility rapport when interpreting in person.
The in-person interpretation technology has drawbacks such as the number of languages a health system can staff efficiently and constrain staff availability, which is likely to hinder both effectiveness and access. As a result, this technology cannot solely be dependent upon, reducing access for a larger population. In addition, remote interpretation technologies such as telephonic and videoconferencing technology will increase efficiency and access by allowing health system staff in a call center with control from a contracted service provider.
Cons of Doctors Learning New Languages
Learning a new language will pose a significant challenge to doctors, and at times it might result in alteration of the intended message. Moreover, doctors willing to learn new foreign languages will not only encounter a significant expense, especially if they take college courses or pay via tutoring but will also be required to commit time and effort. Foreign languages are challenging to understand; some have entirely different grammar styles or use completely different alphabets and sounds. Learning thousands of new vocabulary words word be very difficult and uneasy.
In conclusion, increased awareness of the need to break the communication barrier between the doctors and patient is essential. Moreover, the communication barrier has a lot of negative impacts not only on the quality of health care patient’s safety but also on the satisfaction of the patient and medical professions. Therefore, it is essential to adopt new interpretation technologies.
Al Shamsi, H., Almutairi, A., Al Mashrafi, S., & Al Kalbani, T. (2020). Implications of Language Barriers for Healthcare: A Systematic Review. Oman Medical Journal, 35(2), e122-e122. https://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2020.40.
Karline, L., MD, & MAS. (2018). When Patients and Providers Speak Different Languages. Patient Safety Network. Retrieved from https://psnet.ahrq.gov/web-mm/when-patients-and-providers-speak-different-languages.