Risk Management

Deaf and limited English Proficient (LEP) patients suffer temporary harm or death twice as often as English speaking patients. Communication breakdowns cause nearly 3,000 unexpected patient deaths every year. The majority of these involve LEP patients.

Healthcare providers must consider these potential exposures to liability:

  • Patient comprehension of their medical condition, treatment plan, discharge instructions, complications, and follow-up.

  • Inaccurate and incomplete medical history.

  • Ineffective or improper use of medications or serious medication errors.

  • Improper preparation for tests and procedures.

  • Poor or inadequate informed consent.

*Source: Improving Patient Safety Systems for Patients With Limited English Proficiency: A Guide For Hospitals

Using qualified medical interpreting reduces risk to providers caused by poor language comprehension.

InDemand Interpreting

InDemand Interpreting provides Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) to healthcare organizations. With VRI, physicians and nurses can engage in effective medical conversations with their Deaf and LEP patients.

Risk exposure caused by ineffective communication can lead to four types of failure:

  1. Failure to obtain informed consent
  2. Breach of duty to warn
  3. Breach of patient privacy rights
  4. Medical Malpractice

Failure to Obtain Informed Consent

It is the clinician’s responsibility to ensure patients and guardians comprehend spoken and written communication. If a healthcare provider cannot demonstrate that it delivered effective language access, any obtained consent will most likely be excluded. The use of qualified medical interpreters, and translated forms written in a patient’s preferred language, demonstrates proficient communication delivery.

Breach of Duty to Warn

Similar to failure to obtain informed consent, if a healthcare provider cannot demonstrate effective communication and patient understanding, courts and arbitrators will likely reject any testimony or evidence showing that clinicians informed or warned patients of medical risks or undesirable consequences.

Breach of Patient Privacy Rights

Hospitals and clinics must remain vigilant to protect patients’ healthcare information. The use of unqualified interpreters, like family members or friends, can result in the unintended disclosure of Protected Health Information. Even when permission is given, clinicians should not risk unintended disclosure. A non-HIPPA trained person is more likely to breach privacy rights.

Medical Malpractice

A study by the Joint Commission demonstrated how language is a critical factor in cases of misdiagnosis or poor treatment. Denying interpreting can lead to delayed treatment and a lack of preventive care. LEP patients are twice as likely to suffer temporary harm or death.

Healthcare providers that fail to provide mandated language access, including qualified medical interpreters, risk denied claims by malpractice insurers. In addition, attorneys may file civil liberty claims.

Reduce Risk Exposure

InDemand Interpreting VRI delivers instant access to more than 200 languages, including ASL. Interpreters are medically qualified, trained and highly experienced. To further manage risks, InDemand will help you translate medical forms and record discharge instructions.

Learn More about Using Language Services as a Risk Reduction Strategy.

Watch the Webinar Featuring Elizabeth Swan, Risk Management Consultant at Banner Health