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When the patient gets lost in translation

New York Times, April 30, 2009

For over a decade now, researchers have documented the effects of language barriers on healthcare, says Pauline W. Chen, MD, in this commentary for the New York Times. Patients who speak English poorly or not at all face longer hospital stays, an increased risk of misdiagnoses and medical errors, and decreased access to acute and preventive care services, often regardless of socioeconomic or insurance status, she notes. Chen says that according to a new study published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, doctors’ assumptions about communication—what they deem important in a conversation—may also have a role.