A woman, a girl and a doctor sitting together communicating.

The world is becoming more and more connected. No matter where we go these days, we meet people from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. Whether it is a visitor on holiday, an exchange student, an expatriate or an immigrant, we encounter people from various countries on a regular basis in our daily life. This helps to enrich our society as we open up our minds, learn from each other and explore different traditions, languages, cuisines, and more. However, this multiculturalism also presents new challenges for public institutions and services to overcome language and communication barriers.

Especially for those in the medical field, such as doctors and nurses, it can mean navigating language and cultural barriers while treating a patient. They have to understand and communicate with the patient in order to provide the correct treatment.  Otherwise lack of full understanding due to language barriers may result in malpractice and can have a direct negative impact on the patient’s health. This is where medical interpretation kicks in.

Medical interpretation is key to facilitating communication between medical staff and foreign patients. If a very sick person suddenly arrives in a doctor’s examination room and neither of them understand each other, it is vital to have skilled medical interpretation services at hand. Sometimes a patient may have a family member who can translate and explain the symptoms but these ad hoc interpreters often lack qualifications, training and medical understanding, which might cause errors and hence a less effective or incorrect treatment.

Let’s outline why having professional medical interpretation services are so important.


  • Basic communication of symptoms is clearly important. A doctor needs to know exactly what the patient feels and their medical history. This is not the time to try to act it out and use hand gestures because important details may be missed or doctors may fail to order the necessary diagnostic tests. If time is of the essence, using a dictionary to piece together sentences takes too long.
  • Medical terminology is not typically a part of basic language learning programs. So even if the patient has a basic grasp of the local language, they may not be able to give enough information to the doctor. This can be even more so if they are in a great deal of pain or other distress due to illness. A medical interpreter has taken the time to learn the terminology important to these situations.
  • Family members and friends should be there to offer moral and emotional support, not to work. All too often, children who speak the local language accompany their parents to emergency rooms. It is not fair to call on them to translate when they are already distressed about their sick or injured parent. They also are unlikely to be educated in medical terminology. It is to everyone’s advantage to call on an objective, third-party adult.
  • Cultural barriers become an issue in intimate situations that medical care entails. A good interpreter will be able to aid communication and put the patient at ease. For example, an interpreter will be able to communicate any discomfort a patient may have about being seen by a practitioner of the opposite gender. An interpreter will also be knowledgeable about the kind of care available to the patient in their home country, can explain what the differences are, and what they can expect from medical staff or procedures.

There are many advantages to having a professional interpreter available for a medical practice. Skilled interpretation services gain in relevance and importance due to an ever-increasing, diverse and multicultural society.  Medical interpreters guarantee hospitals, doctors and medical staff the ability to deliver effective, high-quality health care.

If you work in the healthcare industry and face these challenges often, you can use Skiwo to access a pool of professional interpreters quickly and easily.

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