Patient Perspectives on the Need for and Barriers to Professional Medical Interpretation

Katherine Brooks, Bianca Stifani, Haiyan Ramírez Batlle, Maria Aguilera Nunez, Matthew Erlich, Joseph Diaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) constitute an increasing share of the patient population in American healthcare settings. Few studies have described the patient's perspective on barriers to medical interpretation and experiences in the clinical setting.

METHODS: We conducted focus groups with 22 LEP Spanish-speaking adults. Focus groups were transcribed and analyzed in their original Spanish.

RESULTS: LEP patients face significant challenges when accessing health care services due to inadequate or insufficient access to professional interpreters. Predominant themes include: lack of interpreter availability, fear of disclosing limited English skills, and language discordant providers overestimating LEP patients' understanding of English. Many participants felt they had received poorer quality care.

CONCLUSIONS: LEP patients face multiple barriers to accessing adequate interpretation leading to a perceived worsening in the quality of care. In order to improve health outcomes for LEP patients, routine provision of adequate interpretation is essential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-33
Number of pages4
JournalRhode Island medical journal (2013)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 4 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Hispanic Community
  • Immigrants
  • Language Barriers
  • Medical interpretation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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