Article

Journal of Immigrant Health

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 171-176

First online:

Trained Medical Interpreters in the Emergency Department: Effects on Services, Subsequent Charges, and Follow-up

  • Judith BernsteinAffiliated withBoston University School of Public HealthDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Edward BernsteinAffiliated withBoston University School of Public HealthDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Ami DaveAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Eric HardtAffiliated withDepartment of Internal Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Thea JamesAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Judith LindenAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Patricia MitchellAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Tokiko OishiAffiliated withBoston University School of Public Health
  • , Clara SafiAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine

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Abstract

The study was conducted to investigate the impact of an Interpreter Service on intensity of Emergency Department (ED) services, utilization, and charges. This study describes the effects of language barriers on health care service delivery for the index ED visit and a subsequent 90-day period. In all 26,573 ED records from July to November, 1999, resulted in a data set of 500 patients with similar demographic characteristics, chief complaint, acuity, and admission rate. Noninterpreted patients (NIPs) who did not speak English had the shortest ED stay (LOS) and the fewest tests, IVs and medications; English-speaking patients had the most ED services, LOS, and charges. Subsequent clinic utilization was lowest for NIPs. Among discharged patients, return ED visit and ED visit charges were lowest for interpreted patients (IPs). Use of trained interpreters was associated with increased intensity of ED services, reduced ED return rate, increased clinic utilization, and lower 30-day charges, without any simultaneous increase in LOS or cost of visit.

translating communication barriers language emergency services