How do you know if the medical interpreter is accurate?

Catherine Tate has a terribly funny bit on YouTube where she pretends to be an interpreter. In that video, she doesn’t know any of the languages. All she has is a general idea of stereotypes and sounds and is able to fool her manager.

I asked myself how hard would it be for a bilingual person who already has a foundation in both languages to fake his way through an assignment with some technical medical terminology? My guess is not very hard, although a skilled certified interpreter would spot it in a split second.

What can you do to assure an accurate interpreter?

  1. Make sure to identify the need for an interpreter and request one that is certified with plenty of time.
    1. Early request allows time to book a certified interpreter. On the other hand, last minute request might not even result is coverage at all.
  2. Meet with the interpreter ahead of time to:
    1. Review his background;
    1. Plan the session;
    1. Discuss the interpreting process; and
    1. Address concerns.
  3. Record the interpreter’s name.
    1. If a mistake is discovered, you know who is accountable.
  4. Permit the interpreter to finish the rendition before jumping to the next question.
  5. Allow the patient time to answer the question before jumping to the next question.
  6. Verify that the interpreter conveys the message sentence by sentence, not word for word.
    1. Please refer to a previous blog that illustrates why the message must be conveyed not each word.
  7. Ask the patient to explain to you in his own words what he understood from the session. This way you are assured he understood what was transmitted.
  8. If you suspect that the interpreter rendition was wonky, invest in a certified interpreter with an impeccable reputation to observe him the next time.
    1. He might observe that the interpreter isn’t accurate; or
    1. You might observe the interpreter working differently and doing a better job in front of the other.  If that is the case, there is a problem because that’s how it should have been from the start.

A few years since I was hired observe another interpreter in order to confirm a suspicion that the interpreter was doing it inacurately. On that occasion, the interpreter did an adequate job. However, I was later told that in previous appointments, she would paraphrase and argue in behalf of the patient.. Since the unethical behavior was uncovered, it has ceased. I believe that although taking these steps will incur additional costs, they will help avoid potential liability and very costly lawsuits. Additionally, once you locate a great team of interpreters with whom to collaborate, you now can feel secure as you move forward

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