Medical providers must ensure they communicate effectively with patients or their families, or patients and their families can take providers to court for at least four different things. Therefore, medical offices and hospitals must ensure that safeguards are in place.
Language barriers can cause healthcare teams to provide ineffective care. For example, a patient who cannot tell a doctor where they are hurt may receive many medical tests to determine the cause of the pain. Worse yet, they may receive treatment for something that is not the issue. Sometimes the wrong care or misdiagnoses can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits.
Lack of informed consent
When language barriers stop healthcare teams from getting informed consent from the patient or his healthcare power of attorney. The provider must try to find a way to communicate with the patient in their chosen language.
Breach of duty to warn
The medical community has a legal responsibility to warn patients of the consequences of their medical decisions in a language that the patient can understand. This responsibility is one of the reasons that you get a long list of every possible side effect anytime you get a new medication. Still, those warnings do no good if the patient does not speak or write the language that the warnings are in.
Medical providers have a legal responsibility to protect the privacy of patients seeking care. That privacy can easily be broken if a friend or family member acts as an interpreter. Therefore, medical providers should rely on trained interpreters who are hired professionally.
Language barriers can leave medical teams open to legal problems. Medical practice managers should consider hiring multi-lingual staff or developing other ways to ensure effective communication between patients and practitioners.