Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language

Meuter, Renata F.I., Gallois, Cindy, Segalowitz, Norman S., Ryder, Andrew G., & Hocking, Julia (2015) Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language. BMC Health Services Research, 15(371).

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Abstract

Background

Miscommunication in the healthcare sector can be life-threatening. The rising number of migrant patients and foreign-trained staff means that communication errors between a healthcare practitioner and patient when one or both are speaking a second language are increasingly likely. However, there is limited research that addresses this issue systematically. This protocol outlines a hospital-based study examining interactions between healthcare practitioners and their patients who either share or do not share a first language. Of particular interest are the nature and efficacy of communication in language-discordant conversations, and the degree to which risk is communicated. Our aim is to understand language barriers and miscommunication that may occur in healthcare settings between patients and healthcare practitioners, especially where at least one of the speakers is using a second (weaker) language.

Methods/Design

Eighty individual interactions between patients and practitioners who speak either English or Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) as their first language will be video recorded in a range of in- and out-patient departments at three hospitals in the Metro South area of Brisbane, Australia. All participants will complete a language background questionnaire. Patients will also complete a short survey rating the effectiveness of the interaction. Recordings will be transcribed and submitted to both quantitative and qualitative analyses to determine elements of the language used that might be particularly problematic and the extent to which language concordance and discordance impacts on the quality of the patient-practitioner consultation.

Discussion

Understanding the role that language plays in creating barriers to healthcare is critical for healthcare systems that are experiencing an increasing range of culturally and linguistically diverse populations both amongst patients and practitioners. The data resulting from this study will inform policy and practical solutions for communication training, provide an agenda for future research, and extend theory in health communication.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 87448
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: language barriers, healthcare, patient, Chinese, health practitioner
DOI: 10.1186/s12913-015-1024-8
ISSN: 1472-6963
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Social and Community Psychology (170113)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LANGUAGE STUDIES (200300) > English as a Second Language (200303)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Funding:
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Meuter et al.
Copyright Statement: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Deposited On: 15 Sep 2015 04:01
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2015 00:29

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