Family Practice

Rosenberg, E.; Richard, C.; Lussier, M-T.; Shuldiner, T. (2014)

The content of talk about health conditions and medications during appointments involving interpreters

28(3) | pp.317-322

Introduction. Interpreters often join immigrants and physicians to permit communication.
Objective. To describe the content of talk about health problems and medications during clinical encounters involving interpreters [professionals (PI) or family members (FI)].
Methods. We analysed one regularly scheduled encounter for each of 16 adult patients with his family physician and their usual interpreter (10 with a PI and 6 with a FI). A different PI, not involved in the consultations, translated the non-English or French parts. We coded all utterances about each medical problem and each medication using six health problem and 16 medication topics from MEDICODE, a validated coding scheme.
Results. Physicians and patients addressed an average of 3.6 problems and 3 medications per encounter. No psychosocial problems were discussed in encounters involving FIs. On average, three topics were discussed per problem. In order of frequency, they were follow-up, explanations of the condition, non-drug management, consequences, self-management and emotions about the problem. Encounters involving PIs were more likely than encounters with FIs to include discussions of emotions about the problem (42% versus 4%, P = 0.001) and indications for follow-up (88% versus 28%, P < 0.001). An average of 6.5 topics was discussed per medication. Commonest topics discussed were medication class, how the drug was being used, achieved effect and expected effect.
Conclusions. One can address multiple problems and share vital information even in the presence of a language barrier. When FIs are interpreting, physicians would do well to make a particular effort to bring the patient’s psychological and emotional issues into the interaction.