Immigrant and Migrant Health: Growing Need for Medical Interpreters


What if you were in a country where you didn’t speak the local language? Imagine getting sick, going to the doctor and not being able to describe your symptoms properly, or worse, misunderstanding your diagnosis or the treatment options available to you.

As immigrant populations grow, so does the need for interpreting healthcare and medical services in hospitals and clinics. Language and cultural barriers can be big obstacles for understanding a patient’s needs, communicating medical issues and delivering good health care. In the worst case scenario, these barriers can lead to errors in treatment and care. Medical interpreters play an important role in ensuring accurate health care communication between patients and health care professionals.

This is why we’d like to highlight the work of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) and their recent IMIA Conference 2013, which is the largest conference on medical interpreting, held on January 18-20, 2013.

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The International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) is an international organization with over 2,000 members providing interpreting services in over 70 languages. They are committed to the advancement of professional medical interpreters as the best practice to equitable language access to health care for linguistically diverse patients. Members of IMIA are added to their searchable international registry of medical interpreters, connecting interpreters to where they are needed. IMIA is now rolling out oral certification exams in Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean, and offering free membership for minority language interpreters. To learn more, see the announcement here.

The 2013 IMIA Conference was kicked off with a Medical Terminology Boot Camp, followed by 2 days of sessions. The keynote was given by Guadalupe Pacheco, Senior Health Adviser to the Minority Office of Health, US Department of Health. Sessions touched on certification, implications of social media and apps as tools in the Interpreter profession, a National Coalition of Interpreter Associations, and more. (To learn more about the Conference, download their brochure & visit their website.)

How can UniversalDoctor play a role in supporting medical interpretation to enable good communication and delivery of health care to linguistically diverse patients? Though the main aim of our medical translator mobile app – UniversalDoctor Speaker – is a travel health tool, it can also serve as an educational tool for interpreters looking to gain medical certification and practice their abilities. Let us know what you think of our app in the comments! How could we improve it as an educational tool for interpreters to support their work?


For more info on how medical interpreters support healthcare for all, view the articles below:

Growing immigrant population spurs demand for medical interpreters [Kaiser Health News]

Medical interpreters help patients, doctors communicate [USA Today]

Language services are an essential health benefit, too [Mercury News]

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