The Compass replaces
three healthcare interpreting
myths with fact.

• Poor communication
costs the US healthcare
system $73 billion annually,
says the National Academy
on an Aging Society
research shows that language
assistance for limited
English-proficient (LEP)
patients actually reduces
healthcare costs.
Read more

• Using an unqualified
is like using a
broken x-ray machine.
Don’t gamble on getting the
wrong diagnosis: choose
your interpreter carefully.
Here’s how.

• Intoxicado. Misinterpretation
of a single word led to
delayed care and preventable
quadriplegia for a Florida
teenager—and a $71 million
settlement for the hospital
where he was treated.
Read more

Read the full interview with
Dr. James Rohack
, Immediate
Past President of the American
Medical Association.

Read the National Academy
on an Aging Society’s

Fact Sheet on the costs
of poor health literacy.

Find a medical interpreter in
Service Directories.

Lillian Clementi
Esther Diaz

Special thanks to Terena Bell

The ATA Compass is published by
the American Translators Association.
Visit us at

Volume 1 | Number 2
September 2010
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ATA Compass

If you had a bad experience with an incompetent doctor, would you give up on the entire medical profession? Of course not—but that’s the attitude many doctors have toward healthcare interpreters. It’s time to replace myth with fact.

Myth: All interpreters are incompetent.
Fact: You’ll get good results if you use a professional instead of a bilingual bystander. Qualified healthcare interpreters have language skills and medical knowledge that bilingual staff and family members lack—and they follow a well-established code of ethics and rigorous standards of practice.

Myth: Doctors are better off “getting by” without interpreters.
Fact: “Appropriately trained interpreters are the ideal situation,” says Dr. James Rohack, Immediate Past President of the American Medical Association. “The US is a melting pot of many cultures and languages. You need three key components in an interpreter: linguistic competence, medical competence, and cultural competence.”

Myth: Interpreting is a waste of precious healthcare resources.
Fact: Interpreting reduces healthcare costs by improving doctor-patient communication.
 “When a language barrier prevents the doctor from diagnosing the patient, he’ll cover himself with extra tests” says Doug Green of the Texas Association of Healthcare Interpreters and Translators. “If you aren’t using qualified interpreters in healthcare, you’re hemorrhaging cash.”

Dr. Rohack agrees. “Look at the common thread in lawsuits: it’s that the patient feels the doctor didn’t adequately explain why he did what he did. Inadequate communication means more tests, but there’s also a higher risk of lawsuits.”

Learn more.