Why Healthcare Interpretation is More Important Than Ever

Last Updated April 20, 2023

healthcare interpretationHealthcare interpretation fills in the gaps and ensures proper communication between patients, care givers and other involved parties.

Toronto is often referred to as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Around half of its 3 million residents were born outside of Canada, and the city boasts 200 ethnic groups with over 140 languages spoken.

As immigration continues to drive Canada’s population growth, Ontario’s proportion of limited English proficiency (LEP) speakers also continues to grow.

That creates challenges across the board in terms of fundamental supports, not the least of which being healthcare.

Let’s perform an examination on healthcare interpretation and why it’s one of the fastest growing verticals for language service providers.

What is healthcare interpretation?

Healthcare interpreters facilitate communication between patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and the Hard of Hearing and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians and other health care providers.

Health care organizations have attempted to meet this need by employing language services ranging from in-person and over-the-phone live interpretation to using newly developed mobile interpretation apps.

The presence of healthcare interpreters therefore helps improve:

  • Quality of health care
  • Access to health care
  • Cost reductions
  • Compliance with anti-discrimination laws
  • Patient health outcomes

Disseminating essential information in a timely manner is more important than ever, as we know all too well.

Covid-19 and Healthcare Interpretation

First, let’s acknowledge how difficult the pandemic was for so many of us. We all want to move on, and rightfully so.

But there’s also so much to learn from that experience, especially in terms of how to make things better for those with limited proficiency in the language most spoken around them.

At the height of the pandemic, rapidly changing information had to be shared with people from all backgrounds, and the message was sometimes lost along the way because of language barriers.

Getting the correct information out there required proper interpretation, not to mention translation and localization of texts.

The demand for medical interpretation therefore rose exponentially. While seeking emergency healthcare services, patients with limited English proficiency typically need an interpreter to communicate effectively with their care team.

In the United States, there are upwards of 25 million LEP individuals ages five and up. Comparatively, there’s approximately 17,500 medical interpreters working in the United States.

That’s quite a ratio of interpreters to LEP individuals, even if you subtract those who didn’t need direct care during the pandemic. Still, everyone needed to know about lockdowns and vaccination requirements.

Keep in mind as well that some folks burnt out or didn’t want to risk being present in hospitals, further limiting the number of available interpreters.

Hence the rise in technological advancements in healthcare interpretation.

Different Types of Healthcare Interpretation Services

Interpreting – for healthcare and otherwise – can take several forms: simultaneous, consecutive, or whispered. Each suits different situations.

For the purpose of this conversation, here’s what each would look like.


The speaker – in this case a medical professional – shares information and interpreters translate the speech into a language the patient understands on the spot.


This is a form of simultaneous interpreting. The interpreter renders a message from one language to another by whispering it to the individual. This is probably more likely in a group setting or a community information setting, for example.


Here, the interpreter takes notes while the healthcare professional presents the information. The interpreter then reproduces what the speaker has said to the individual.

Now, we usually picture interpretation from a movie scene at the United Nations with translations delivered through earpieces. With the Zoom boom that took place during Covid, there’s a plethora of options for remote interpretation.

There’s immediate, over-the-phone consecutive interpretation and virtual technology that can connect you with interpreters in any number of languages.

And with recent advancements in artificial intelligence and generative, pre-trained models, information will be increasingly accessible through machine models.

For now, though, you’re best off trusting human to human interpretation, especially when it comes to personal health.

“Paging Healthcare Interpretation Services”

With over 20 years of experience, we’ve built a large database of proven and experienced medical interpreters and translators.

As a result, our clients can be sure that each medical translation will be carried out by a professional.

Our team of linguists also translates and transcribes medical documents, prescriptions, data sheets, and reports.

With our multilingual staffing services, we will find the right interpreter with our large database of experts.

Contact us today to learn more.

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