Let’s Not Contribute to Disparities: The Best Methods for Teaching Clinicians How to Overcome Language Barriers to Health Care

Journal of General Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.42). 05/2010; 25:189-193. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-009-1201-8

ABSTRACT Clinicians should be educated about how language barriers contribute to disparities for patients with limited English proficiency
(LEP). However, educators must avoid developing educational interventions that increase health disparities for LEP patients.
For example, studies suggest that teaching “Medical Spanish” or related courses may actually contribute to health care disparities
if clinicians begin using these non-English language skills inappropriately with patients. We discuss the risks and benefits
of teaching specific cultural competence skills and make evidence-based recommendations for the teaching content and methods
for educational interventions focused on overcoming language barriers in health care. At minimum, we suggest such interventions
include: (1) the role of language barriers in health disparities, (2) means of overcoming language barriers, (3) how to work
with interpreters, (4) identifying and fixing problems in interpreted encounters, and (5) appropriate and safe use of one’s
own limited non-English language skills.

KEY WORDScommunication barriers-doctor-patient relationships-medical education-health disparities

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May 22, 2014