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Cases of patient care jeopardized by language difficulties were discussed at the recent Collaborating for Healthy Communication event at Cuyamaca College . Eleven years ago, the Institute of Medicine reported that 44,000 people die annually in the United States as a result of errors in medication or medical procedures. Keynote Speaker Amy Wilson-Stronks of the Joint Commission attributed 533 negative effects from medical errors to miscommunication. The Joint Commission has established standards for medical centers to follow in providing health care interpreting services, stating that all patients are entitled to receive information, both orally and written, about their treatment in a way that is understandable. Cuyamaca College plans to start offering a health care interpreter certificate program to address this problem. Although interpreting services are offered by a majority of hospitals surveyed by the Joint Commission, few hospital employees are aware of them. When interpreters are not used in a health care setting, cultural beliefs can further impede proper treatment. At least 59 hospital CEOs now say that they see advantages to enhancing communications, such as reducing liability and accelerating the movement of patients through the health care system.

From “Language Barriers Endanger Patient Health”
East County Magazine (CA) (04/14/10) Raftery, Miriam
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