Medical Interpreting for Doctor’s Offices and Hospitals
Professional medical translation services play an important role in helping hospitals and doctors’ offices comply with the Affordable Care Act, and, thus, help to shield doctors and medical clinics from liability that arises when the doctor’s office fails to provide a medical interpreter for a LEP patient, or uses an unqualified interpreter. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) specifically prohibits discrimination in certain health programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or gender, along with discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity.
In July of 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHC) issued a rule describing what providers must do in order to comply with Section 1557. The rule, which went into effect on July 18, 2016 (except for rules affecting health insurance benefit plans, which are not effective until January 1, 2017), contains new provisions designed to protect individuals with limited English proficiency.
Medical Document Translation Services Provide Meaningful Access for LEP Patients
According to the new rule, covered entities are required to provide “meaningful access” to individuals with limited English proficiency, which means providing qualified medical interpreters and qualified medical translations of written documents. Specifically, according to the rule, “[a] covered entity shall offer a qualified interpreter to an individual with limited English proficiency when oral interpretation is a reasonable step to provide meaningful access for that individual with limited English proficiency,” and “[a] covered entity shall use a qualified translator when translating written content in paper or electronic form. In addition, covered entities may not:
• Require an individual with limited English proficiency to provide his or her own interpreter;
• Rely on an adult accompanying an individual with limited English proficiency to interpret or facilitate communication except in the following situations:
o In an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public where there is no qualified interpreter for the individual with limited English proficiency immediately available; or
o Where the individual with limited English proficiency specifically requests that the accompanying adult interpret or facilitate communication, the accompanying adult agrees to provide such assistance, and reliance on that adult for such assistance is appropriate under the circumstances.
• Rely on a minor child to interpret or facilitate communication, except in an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public where there is no qualified interpreter for the individual with limited English proficiency immediately available; or
• Rely on staff other than qualified bilingual/multilingual staff to communicate directly with individuals with limited English proficiency.
The rule further requires that if the covered entity provides qualified medical interpreters for individuals with limited English proficiency through video remote interpreting services, the entity must provide the following:
• real-time, full-motion video and audio and high-quality video images that do not produce lags, choppy, blurry, or grainy image, or irregular pauses in communication.
• a sharply delineated image that is large enough to display the interpreter’s face and the participating individual’s face regardless of the individual’s body position;
• a clear and audible transmission of voices, and
• adequate training for the users of the technology so that they may quickly and efficiently set up and operate the video remote interpreting.
Importantly, the Rule also defines the terms “qualified interpreter” and “qualified translator” in order to give covered entities guidance on meeting the requirements of the new rule. The rule defines qualified interpreters and translators as follows:
Qualified interpreter for an individual with limited English proficiency means an interpreter who via a remote interpreting service or an on-site appearance:
• (1) Adheres to generally accepted interpreter ethics principles, including client confidentiality;
• (2) has demonstrated proficiency in speaking and understanding both spoken English and at least one other spoken language; and
• (3) is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressly, to and from such language(s) and English, using any necessary specialized vocabulary, terminology and phraseology.
Qualified translator means a translator who:
• (1) Adheres to generally accepted translator ethics principles, including client confidentiality;
• (2) has demonstrated proficiency in writing and understanding both written English and at least one other written non-English language; and
• (3) is able to translate effectively, accurately, and impartially to and from such language(s) and English, using any necessary specialized vocabulary, terminology and phraseology.
These new rules, which clarify what covered entities must do in order to comply with Section 1557 of the ACA, will undoubtedly provide better access to healthcare for individuals with limited English speaking abilities.
Contact All Language Alliance, Inc. to request services of qualified and certified medical interpreters in the metro Denver and Boulder area. Professional medical interpreting services are available in more than 100 foreign languages, including Russian, Spanish, Polish, Korean, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Cantonese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Nepali, as well as such exotic languages as Kunama, Karenni, Burmese, and many other uncommon and common foreign languages.
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