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Aust Health Rev. 2018 Apr;42(2):168-177. doi: 10.1071/AH16195.

Patient satisfaction of telephone or video interpreter services compared with in-person services: a systematic review.

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Centre for Clinical Effectiveness, Monash Health, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia. Email:.


Objective This review was conducted to identify and synthesise the evidence around the use of telephone and video interpreter services compared with in-person services in healthcare. Methods A systematic search of articles published in the English language was conducted using PubMed, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Cochrane Library, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), Joanna Briggs, Google Scholar and Google. Search terms included 'interpreter', 'patient satisfaction', 'consumer satisfaction' and 'client satisfaction'. Any study that did not compare in-person interpreter services with either telephone or video interpreter services was excluded from analysis. Studies were screened for inclusion or exclusion by two reviewers, using criteria established a priori. Data were extracted via a custom form and synthesised. Results The database search yielded 196 studies, eight of which were included in the present review. The search using an Internet search engine did not identify any relevant studies. Of the studies included, five used telephone and three used video interpreter services. All studies, except one, compared levels of satisfaction regarding in-person interpretation and telephone or video interpretation. One study compared satisfaction of two versions of video interpretation. There is evidence of higher satisfaction with hospital-trained interpreters compared with ad hoc (friend or family) or telephone interpreters. There is no difference in satisfaction between in-person interpreting, telephone interpreting or interpretation provided by the treating bilingual physician. Video interpreting has the same satisfaction as in-person interpreting, regardless of whether the patient and the physician are in the same room. Higher levels of satisfaction were reported for trained telephone interpreters than for in-person interpreters or an external telephone interpreter service. Conclusions Current evidence does not suggest there is one particular mode of interpreting that is superior to all others. This review is limited in its translational capacity given that most studies were from the US and in a Spanish-speaking cohort. What is known about the topic? Access to interpreters has been shown to positively affect patients who are not proficient in speaking the local language of the health service. What does this paper add? This paper adds to the literature by providing a comprehensive summary of patient satisfaction when engaging several different types of language interpreting services used in healthcare. What are the implications for practitioners? This review provides clear information for health services on the use of language interpreter services and patient satisfaction. The current body of evidence does not indicate a superior interpreting method when patient satisfaction is concerned.

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