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J Immigr Minor Health. 2014 Apr;16(2):211-7. doi: 10.1007/s10903-012-9722-3.

System-level factors affecting clinicians' perceptions and use of interpreter services in California public hospitals.

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Center for Healthcare Equity, Institute for Healthcare Studies, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.


Professional language interpreters are skilled in the nuances of interpretation and are less likely to make errors of clinical significance but clinicians infrequently use them. We examine system-level factors that may shape clinicians' perceptions and use of professional interpreters. Exploratory qualitative study in 12 California public hospitals. We conducted in-person key informant interviews with hospital leadership, clinical staff, and administrative staff. Five emergent themes highlight system-level factors that may influence clinicians' perceptions and use of professional interpreters in hospitals: (1) organization-wide commitment to improving language access for LEP patients; (2) organizational investment in remote interpreter technologies to increase language access; (3)training clinicians on how to access and work with interpreters; (4) hospital supports the training and certification of bilingual staff to serve as interpreters to expand in-person, on-site, interpreter capacity; and (5)organizational investment in readily accessible telephonic interpretation. Multiple system-level factors underlie clinicians' use of professional interpreters. Interventions that target these factors could improve language services for patients with limited English proficiency.

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