Medical Interpreters, Medical Interpretation and Translation Services for Retail Pharmacies

July 16, 2009

Language barriers which impede communication between the non-English-speaking patients and the English-speaking pharmacy staff can lead to medication errors, and can, therefore, have grave consequences. Last month, Rite Aid, following a trend among other pharmacies, began offering multilingual pharmaceutical translation services to its customers who do not understand or speak English well.

The telephonic interpreters will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the customers' request. This translation service costs the customer nothing and offers medical interpreting services in more than 175 languages including Arabic, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, and Spanish. The pharmaceutical translators will interpret all the relevant information, including medication instructions, side effects, and precautions.

While this seems very praiseworthy, especially given the number of people in the U.S. who do not speak or read English well, a few issues remain unanswered.

One unanswered question is who will oversee the integrity of the translations. In other words, how will the pharmacies know if the translator is providing a correct translation? And what about differences in translations? Suppose customers change pharmacies and they get a translation at the new pharmacy that is different from their previous pharmacy's translation. This may create confusion for the customers. And how will smaller and independent pharmacies provide similar medical translation and interpreting services with a smaller budget and staff?

Hopefully, these pharmacies will employ certified medical translators. If not, malpractice issues could quickly arise, perhaps adding further confusion to the arena of workers compensation and personal injury law.

To read our legal interpretation and legal translation blog post "On-Site Medical Interpreting Services, Medical Interpreters and Medical Translators for Non-English-Speaking Patients and Patient Family Members in Denver, Colorado, and Elsewhere" click here.