Patients With Limited English Present Practice Challenges

For communication during cancer treatment, study finds use of interpreting services varies
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Important practice setting differences exist in the use and availability of trained medical interpreters and telephone interpretation services for communicating with limited English proficient (LEP) patients, according to a study published online Oct. 29 in Health Services Research.

Danielle E. Rose, Ph.D., of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System in Sepulveda, Calif., and colleagues conducted a 2004 survey of 348 physicians treating breast cancer patients, of whom 77 percent responded to a mailed survey on use of interpreting services.

The researchers found that most physicians surveyed were treating LEP women, but access to interpreting services varied widely among practitioners, with 42 percent using trained medical interpreters, 75 percent using untrained interpreters, and 21 percent accessing interpreting services via phone. In addition, availability of interpreting services in single specialty medical groups and among solo doctors was worse than for those working with HMOs.

"There were important practice setting differences predicting use and availability of trained medical interpreters and telephone interpretation services. These findings may have troubling implications for effective physician-patient communication critically needed during cancer treatment," the authors conclude. "The establishment of quality indicators with respect to patient-physician communication would be a major step towards achieving better communication outcomes necessary to patient-centered cancer care."

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