Louis Hampers Responds to New Fox Report, Urges Hospitals to Combat Language Barriers

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A new Fox News Report says that having interpreters present in emergency rooms could go a long way toward reducing miscommunications and other errors—and doctors like Louis Hampers agree.

Anyone who has ever been to the Emergency Room knows that it is a hectic, fast-moving place, cluttered with all manner of busy professionals and relief workers. While most individuals associate the hospital ER with doctors, nurses, surgeons, and paramedics, however, few think of the hospital as a place where interpreters rank high among the assembled personnel. According to a new Fox News report, however, this is something that hospitals may need to reconsider. The latest evidence suggests that having more interpreters on hospital staffs could go a long way toward improving patient care. This finding has won the attention, and the endorsement, of professionals and experts such as Louis Hampers.

The study, as reported in Fox, took place at two different pediatric emergency rooms. In both environments, it was found that having foreign language interpreters on staff would have been highly beneficial to the patients, and particularly patients who do not speak English as their native language. The study found that, in many cases, having a dearth of interpreters or interpreters can lead to miscommunications in the ER, and that these miscommunications can have “clinical consequences.”

In fact, the study’s lead researcher, Glenn Flores, says that “interpreter errors of potential clinical consequence are significantly more likely to occur” when there is no interpreter on staff, or else there is simply an ad hoc interpreter as opposed to a full-time, professional one.

These findings have earned affirmation from Louis Hampers, himself a veteran of pediatric emergency rooms and a long-time advocate of having interpreters as part of the hospital team. Hampers, who has conducted much research in this field, says the study highlights a significant problem with our healthcare system.

“Dr. Flores’ work has clearly shown the benefit of trained medical interpreters on the quality of care,” says Hampers, in a new statement to the press. “The challenge, of course, is meeting the demand for such services. Our recent work has shown that telephonic services may bridge that gap without a drop off in quality.”

The need for interpreters is great, according to the Fox report’s statistics. Roughly 25 million United States citizens have limited skills with the English language—which is to say, their skills would be evaluated as something less than speaking English “very well.” Hospitals that receive government funding are required to provide some form of translation service to meet these demographic needs, and in many cases this is something like the telephone service cited by Louis Hampers.

The new study finds that having an interpreter available is effective not only for helping to improve the standards of patient care, but also for boosting efficiency and cutting costs. Having an interpreter available can help patients avoid unnecessary tests, for example, something that benefits them as well as the hospital. According to experts like Hampers, finding a way to meet the demands for translation services is something that will ultimately have profound implications for hospital administration and patient care.

Louis Hampers, MD, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Experienced in pediatric medicine as well as emergency services, his professional interests lie in researching the importance of overcoming language barriers in healthcare settings.

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Michael McGarety
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