Whether they are immigrants or refugees, moving to a new country requires a lot of adjusting for the Limited English Proficient (LEP) community. One of the most stressful parts is getting set up with a primary care doctor or figuring out what to do in case of a medical emergency.

For a monolingual English speaking patient, there is a list of benefits to getting established with a primary care provider:

  • They go in for a consultation with a new provider in order to explain their past medical history such as chronic illnesses and surgeries.
  • A list of medications they are allergic to is usually provided. 
  • What conditions (if any) for which they will need routine treatment.
  • The provider keeps all of this information stored online so that a clinic or hospital has access to it for reference in case of an emergency.

LEP patients, on the other hand, usually end up visiting the Emergency Department (ED) for health issues because they may not have a primary care provider. When it comes to treating a LEP patient, they require the exact same care as a patient who is English proficient, but that’s not always possible with a language barrier. Therefore, the expectation may be that the patient will turn out to be a liability and more expensive because they are far less likely to have a primary care provider and little to no record of their medical history. This is seen as a potential financial loss because the provider is running the risk of not diagnosing them properly the first time due to not having a clear idea of the symptoms that they can’t explain. There is also the risk of the patient having problems with any prescribed medication if they are unable to communicate their allergies. 


So why not just utilize ad hoc interpreters?

It’s very likely at least one person in the clinic or ED knows a second language. When a Russian speaking patient needs to be seen, it would be very convenient if they are able to bring in an English speaking family member or to utilize a Russian speaking nurse. But this could create a variety of problems. For instance:

  • There is medical terminology that a family member might not be able to translate, whereas a qualified medical interpreter is actually trained on the correct verbiage in both languages. 
  • An English speaking family member or a bilingual nurse may not always be available. 
  • There is a conflict of interest when a family member or friend interpretes for the patient. Professionally trained interpreters are neutral and unbiased.  
  • Keep internal staff focused on their vital functions which increases productivity. 
  • Studies show that LEP patients on Medicaid were 94% more likely than English proficient patients to use primary care and 78% less likely to use the emergency department when having access to a medical interpreter. 

Hiring a qualified medical interpreter can assist the provider with ensuring the best care and the most effective use of resources . To summarize, by providing them with a professional, medical interpreter, you break down the language barrier and are ultimately saving more money due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  1. The patient is more likely to get an accurate diagnosis the first time because of less testing and clear information about chronic conditions and medical history.
  2. The provider will be able to prescribe a medication that they know the patient is not allergic to, therefore preventing the patient from returning for new health concerns and needing a new prescription.
  3. According to the American Medical Association, having certified medical interpreters plays a huge role in ensuring the best care and experience possible for LEP patients, therefore generating more revenue overall.