Talking to your doctor just got easier – in 170 languages

Throughout the GTA hospitals and community agencies are receiving new translation services in over 170 different languages.

Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) have helped 19 GTA hospitals and 14 community agencies gain access to a proper translation service 24/7 giving immigrant patients better ways of communicating with and understanding their caregivers. This has lowered and equaled the pay rate for all hospitals and community agencies in the GTA for translation services. The price range has gone from $1.70-$8 per minute to a lower price of $1.44 or less per minute depending on monthly usage thanks to LHIN’s bulk service provided.

Samir Sinha director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospitals says LHINs have done a lot for the GTA community.

“They’ve worked with hospitals in the region, across the GTA and beyond, but also with other health, social and community services organizations,” Sinha said. “So over 40 organizations have come together in order to bulk bind a translations service that will help everyone spend considerably less than they have been on translations services for their patients.”

The challenge has been when you’re meeting with a patient that doesn’t speak English it makes it very hard for us to ask questions to get the answers we need.

— Samir Sinha

Sinha says proper communication between a doctor and a patient is strongly needed for proper care.

“As professionals with our patients, in the community or in hospitals, the challenge has been when you’re meeting with a patient that doesn’t speak English it makes it very hard for us to ask questions to get the answers we need,” Sinha said. “It’s hard for them to be able to express their concerns and their signs and symptoms. They can’t feel like they’re being understood leads to a situation where everyone’s having equally bad experiences.”

When a patient doesn’t understand their doctor Sinha says it can be really bad for their health.

“Sometimes you miss the diagnosis, sometimes you can order wrong tests, a patient may be upset because they cannot express how they feel,” Sinha said. “Which causes physicians to feel frustrated because we may not be understanding the full picture to help us make a proper diagnosis.”

Sinha says it is very important for a patient to be able to communicate their health history to their doctor.

“We always say that whenever a physician and a patient interact there are two key components between a healthcare provider and a patient is the history and the physical and we often say that 90 per cent of the diagnosis can be found out through the history,” Sinha said.

Elizabeth Abraham, manager of interpretations and translations services, says this collective interpretation service will help cut down costs effectively for not only the hospitals, but the system as a whole as well.

“There is an opportunity for tremendous savings here not just to the hospitals but to the system overall,” Abraham said. “By having effective communication in a session we know that we are going to have reduced readmissions, reduced use of emergency, reduced medication error; there are a lot of positives that come out of effective communication between a patient and a care provider.”

Abraham says when it all comes down to it, trust is a critical part in forming a trust between patient and care provider.

“It’s critical for developing a trust relationship with your patient to be able to communicate respectively with them, so when people are struggling with language or when a family member is attempting to interpret what you lose is that opportunity to build a rapport directly with your patient and to gain their trust,” Abraham said. “Trust helps them adhere to their treatment plan and ultimately the result is better outcomes.”

When asked about the importance of this interpretation service Abraham says, “This is an opportunity to improve quality of care for Toronto’s immigrants and refugees.”