When do I need to call for an interpreter for my patient?

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Anytime a Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf/Blind patient is under your care, it is very important for you to be able to communicate with the patient and them with you.  It is inappropriate and not in compliance with HIPAA or state and federal laws to rely on family or friends to act as interpreters. A family member or friend may not have the fluency to interpret or may have difficulty in remaining unbiased. If someone knows sign language that does not make that person an interpreter. In order to make sure that communication is clear and unbiased a professional interpreter should be used.

A patient using sign language has all the same fears and anxieties as a hearing patient. However, these fears are greatly compounded when they can’t make their needs known or understand what is being done to or for them.

Most importantly, miscommunication can result in needs going unmet, wrong medication given, delays in correct diagnosis and treatment, and serious harm to the patient. Finally, it is important that you are familiar with your responsibilities in regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The responsibility in making sure that a patient receives and understands all the information that is given falls on the health care provider.

Areas where an interpreter may be needed:

  • Admission and orientation
  • Medical procedures
  • Patient/family conference with physician(s)
  • Explanation of medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment
  • Signing of any consent forms
  • Discharge instructions
  • Any time the patient or family member needs to communicate with you or you with them
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