The impact of medical interpreter services on the quality of health care: a systematic review

Med Care Res Rev. 2005 Jun;62(3):255-99. doi: 10.1177/1077558705275416.


Twenty-one million Americans are limited in English proficiency (LEP), but little is known about the effect of medical interpreter services on health care quality. Asystematic literature review was conducted on the impact of interpreter services on quality of care. Five database searches yielded 2,640 citations and a final database of 36 articles, after applying exclusion criteria. Multiple studies document that quality of care is compromised when LEP patients need but do not get interpreters. LEP patients' quality of care is inferior, and more interpreter errors occur with untrained ad hoc interpreters. Inadequate interpreter services can have serious consequences for patients with mental disorders. Trained professional interpreters and bilingual health care providers positively affect LEP patients' satisfaction, quality of care, and outcomes. Evidence suggests that optimal communication, patient satisfaction, and outcomes and the fewest interpreter errors occur when LEP patients have access to trained professional interpreters or bilingual providers.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Translating*
  • United States