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Scand J Prim Health Care. 2008;26(1):40-5. doi: 10.1080/02813430701877633.

General practitioners' views on consultations with interpreters: a triad situation with complex issues.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden. nabi.fatahi@allmed.gu.se

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To study a group of general practitioners' (GPs) views on cross-cultural consultations through interpreters in primary healthcare in Sweden.

DESIGN:

Two group interviews and three personal interviews with experienced GPs regarding clinical consultation through interpreters were carried out. The interviews were transcribed and analysed and the text was categorized according to content analysis.

SETTING:

Primary healthcare.

SUBJECTS:

Eight GPs were interviewed.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

The response and opinions of the GPs.

RESULTS:

In the analysis it appeared that an optimal clinical encounter demands an active role by all participants involved in the consultation. The interpreter has to strive after being a stable neutral information bridge, and has a balancing role between the GP and the patient. The GP has to be open to cultural inequalities and recognize consultation through an interpreter as a part of her/his job. The patient needs to be an active and visible participant, not hiding behind the interpreter. Common obstacles and imperfections to reach the best possible triad were discussed. Additionally, practical assets in the encounter were delineated. Accurate physical placing of the persons in the room, adequate length of consultation time, and using the same interpreter from one visit to another were mentioned as factors influencing the outcome of the consultation.

CONCLUSION:

Barriers in cross-cultural communications could originate from all persons involved, the interpreter, the GP, and the patient, as well as from tangible factors. Ways to reduce misunderstandings in GP-patient encounters through interpreters are suggested.

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