One in four New Yorkers don't speak or understand complex sentences in English. But at some point in their lives, every one of them will need to see a doctor. Language barriers can result in misdiagnoses, medication errors, and potentially fatal mistakes that are costly for both patients and providers. For this reason, hospitals in New York are required to provide "meaningful language access" to all patients. But in a city where more than 140 different languages are spoken daily, how is it possible?
The majority of patients in the city's public hospital system need language interpretation services.
Bellevue Hospital's atrium
Evens Jean, a Haitian Creole and French interpreter at Bellevue Hospital, uses the TEMIS system to work with patients.
Hospitals in New York State are required to provide free interpretation services for patients who don't speak English.
Tong Woo Lee, a Korean immigrant with limited English language ability, is in Bellevue Hospital for an infection in his spine. He is speaking to Dr. Ofri through a telephone interpreter provided by the company Pacific Interpreters.
Dr. Danielle Ofri relies on telephone interpreters daily.
Bellevue Hospital has hired 28 people to work at an on-site telephonic interpretation service similar to the one used by the United Nations. They get an average of 6,500 calls a month.
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