Interpreter use and satisfaction with interpersonal aspects of care for Spanish-speaking patients

Med Care. 1998 Oct;36(10):1461-70. doi: 10.1097/00005650-199810000-00004.


Objectives: Many patients have limited English proficiency and require an interpreter. The authors evaluated the effect of current interpreting practices on Spanish-speaking patients' satisfaction with the patient-provider relationship.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of 457 patients seen in a public hospital emergency department. Measures were satisfaction with the provider's friendliness, respectfulness, concern, ability to make the patient comfortable, and time spent for the exam.

Results: A total of 237 patients communicated adequately with their provider without the use of an interpreter (group 1), 120 patients communicated through an interpreter (88% of whom were ad hoc interpreters; group 2), and 100 patients communicated directly with the provider but said an interpreter should have been called (group 3). Compared with patients in group 1, patients who communicated through an interpreter (group 2) rated their provider as less friendly, less respectful, less concerned for the patient as a person, and less likely to make the patient comfortable. Patients who said an interpreter should have been called (group 3) had the lowest satisfaction ratings; compared with group 2, they were less satisfied with their provider's friendliness, concern for the patient as a person, efforts to make the patient comfortable, and amount of time spent.

Conclusions: Patients who communicated through an interpreter or who did not have an interpreter when they thought one was necessary were less satisfied with the patient-provider relationship. Further efforts are needed to ensure interpreter availability and proper interpretation technique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication Barriers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Hospitals, County
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Translating*