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Interpreters in ER may help limit medical errors

Chicago Tribune / Reuters, April 18, 2012

Having professional translators in the emergency room for non-English-speaking patients might help limit potentially dangerous miscommunication, a new study suggests. The study, done at two pediatric ERs, found that when Spanish-speaking families had access to a professional interpreter, 12 percent of translation slips—such as adding or omitting certain words and phrases—could have had "clinical consequences," like giving a wrong medication dose. But mistakes like that were about twice as likely if there was no interpreter or if the translator was an amateur, like a family member or a bilingual member of the hospital staff.