Medical professionals all across the United States, including cardiologist Dr. Cesar Yepes, have continued to serve an increasing number and variety of patients. As the country has continued expanding, the need for medical care has also significantly grown. This stems from multiple factors such as population increase, a growing number of older citizens, and mandated health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
As the numbers continue to grow, culture clash also comes into play for new patients. The biggest clash manifests as language barriers. Many physicians, specialists, and their staffs simply cannot speak or understand the languages of their increasing number of patients - and these language difficulties pose a significant challenge to providing the best possible care to patients.
As this concern continues to gain prominence in the country, many people have begun to take action to better resolve the issue. A recent report from National Journal contributor Sophie Quinton sheds light on the struggle of this situation, as well as the proposed ideas to help solve it.
As Quinton explained, the number of non-English speaking Americans has ballooned as the population has expanded. “About 21 percent of people living in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home,” she wrote, “and some 9 percent of U.S. residents aren't fluent in English, according to 2011 census estimates.”
What can be done to address the growing number of citizens – and potential patients – who can’t speak English? Quinton described several examples of how NYC-tech firm Transcendent Endeavors meets this growing need through a variety of solutions. “There's an app for relaying basic medical instructions in Fukienese, a group of dialects spoken in southeastern China. Need a way to help bedridden non-English-speaking patients instantly alert a nurse for assistance? Touch-screen software exists that allows patients to click a pained face – perhaps marked ‘pain’ in Russian – to instantly alert a nurse.”
As technology continues to evolve and adapt, many interpretation concerns are finally being addressed in medicine. But are these new solutions giving medical practitioners enough to consider the matter settled?
Simplifying the Language Problem
With technology pushes like Sophie Quinton mentioned in her report, it seems like the medical world is well on the way to improvement. But for many people practicing today, the future is simply too far removed and too ambiguous. While tech certainly helps address communication problems, the need for fluent language speakers and interpreters still takes the cake in medicine.
As Quinton continued, “While today's digital tools can help communicate basic information across language barriers, there's not yet a digital substitute for a trained medical interpreter or a fully bilingual practitioner. And some experts say that translation apps and other tools can even be dangerous if they lead to incomplete communication.
With these shortcomings in mind, many doctors are taking action with a much simpler solution to the problem of language barriers. That solution is to become fluent in more than one language to improve overall patient relations.
One clear example of this premise in action comes through cardiologist Dr. Cesar Yepes. Dr. Yepes has studied and worked with people of multiple languages, and accordingly, he has gained fluency in three languages to help achieve the goal of better reaching patients.
Seeing the World With Language as the Ticket
One of the best advantages to speaking multiple languages goes far beyond effective communication in a local area. In fact, people across all industries vastly benefit from speaking additional languages other than English. This holds true for medical specialists like Dr. Cesar Yepes as well as executives, teachers, and other professionals.
“[Speaking three languages] allowed me to train in premier institutions in North America in the cities of New York, Montreal, and Boston,” Dr. Yepes remarked, “as well as attending specialized courses around the world.”
Beyond America, speaking multiple languages also opens up the world for medical service. In many cases, bilingual or trilingual doctors have taken advantage of their fluency by serving patients in positions and appointments throughout the world.
“I have the capacity to work in almost any location throughout the world because of the languages I speak,” Dr. Cesar Yepes continued. “They are three of the most widely spoken languages in the entire world. It’s great. I can go anywhere and work in hospitals that I would not have the ability to otherwise work at. That’s what is so exciting to me. The fact that, at the drop of a hat, I can travel across the world, provide medical care, and ultimately never skip a beat.”
Language Fluency Increasingly Important for Doctors
In today’s increasingly connected world, language has become a top concern for everyone serving the medical industry. Technology solutions like those provided by Transcendent Endeavors certainly help ease the situation. But as most people in the industry recognize, these tech innovations are not enough to fully address the issue at hand.
Because of this, having a staff of interpreters appears to be a worthwhile compromise between tech and reality. What’s even better, however, is to encourage both current future doctors to focus on studying additional languages. Medical professionals like Dr. Cesar Yepes recognize the immense value of fluency in multiple languages – both for themselves and for their patients.