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System-Level Factors Affecting Clinicians’ Perceptions and Use of Interpreter Services in California Public Hospitals

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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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This work was funded through a grant from The California Endowment.

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Correspondence to Romana Hasnain-Wynia.

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Baurer, D., Yonek, J.C., Cohen, A.B. et al. System-Level Factors Affecting Clinicians’ Perceptions and Use of Interpreter Services in California Public Hospitals. J Immigrant Minority Health 16, 211–217 (2014).

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