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J Immigr Health. 2002 Oct;4(4):171-6.

Trained medical interpreters in the emergency department: effects on services, subsequent charges, and follow-up.

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  • 1Department of Maternal and Child Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


The study was conducted to investigate the impact of an Interpreter Service on intensity of Emergency Department (ED) services, utilization, and charges. This study describes the effects of language barriers on health care service delivery for the index ED visit and a subsequent 90-day period. In all 26,573 ED records from July to November, 1999, resulted in a data set of 500 patients with similar demographic characteristics, chief complaint, acuity, and admission rate. Noninterpreted patients (NIPs) who did not speak English had the shortest ED stay (LOS) and the fewest tests, IVs and medications; English-speaking patients had the most ED services, LOS, and charges. Subsequent clinic utilization was lowest for NIPs. Among discharged patients, return ED visit and ED visit charges were lowest for interpreted patients (IPs). Use of trained interpreters was associated with increased intensity of ED services, reduced ED return rate, increased clinic utilization, and lower 30-day charges, without any simultaneous increase in LOS or cost of visit.

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