OBJECTIVES: To explore the perceived and actual quality of communication and the conversational mechanisms through which misunderstandings arise in linguistically diverse Emergency Department consultations.

METHODS: A mixed method approach was used, based on audio-records of consultations which rely on patient companions for linguistic support, and ethnographic contextual data. Interpreting errors and their potential impact on the clinical reasoning process and doctor-patient relationships were quantitatively assessed. Complementary qualitative ethnographic research provided a richer understanding of the context. The study involved interdisciplinary collaboration with specialists in applied linguistics, medicine, and psychology.

RESULTS: Accurate interpretation occurred in as few as 19% of interpreter speech turns. Answering for the patient and omitting information were the most frequent errors. The nature and severity of the impact of the errors varied. Answering for the patient had the greatest clinical impact. The omission of messages from the doctor to the patient negatively affected doctor-patient relationships.

CONCLUSION: Gaps were observed between the perceived and the actual quality of communication, although patient companions often provided useful information.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: In addition to raising awareness among doctors on the potential risks of using AHIs, EDs should adjust their management to increase the utilization of onsite and remote PIs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1439-1445
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number8
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

    Research areas

  • Clinical education, Communication, Emergency department, Language barriers, Medical interpreting

ID: 45378640