This project will explore how improving access to professional interpretation services can improve health care quality in Ontario. It will build evidence-based policy recommendations for language accessibility and interpretation services.
Language can be a major barrier to accessing health care services for many living in Ontario. There is a well documented body of evidence that shows a patient’s inability to communicate with their health provider leads to inappropriate medical testing, increases the risk of adverse medication reactions, and is a significant barrier to medical comprehension. This includes problems understanding a medical situation, confusion about how to use medication, and possible bad reactions to medication.
In Ontario the number of individuals speaking non-official languages is significantly higher than the national average. Close to half of all GTA residents report having a mother tongue other than English or French and 4.1 percent report having no knowledge of either official language; there are over 160 languages spoken in the GTA. Toronto specifically is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in Canada with nearly 30 percent of households speaking a non-official language at home. Ontario’s linguistic landscape is a reflection of our diversity; however, under our current health care system this poses major challenges for health equity.
Currently there is no guarantee that patients will receive health care in their preferred language. Moreover, there is no coordinated system for monitoring or assessing language accessibility in health care encounters and interactions. Instead, individual health care organizations can set their own standards of practice, leading to a patchwork system that can be challenging for patients and providers to navigate. In many cases, health care providers rely on informal, untrained interpreters such as patients’ family members or hospital staff.
Research has demonstrated that language barriers between patients and health care providers lead to poorer health care. How can we ensure that all patients in the GTA and across Ontario receive good health care, no matter what language they speak?
Our research asks:
- How does access to professional interpretation services affect patient outcomes?
- How does access to professional interpretation services affect health system costs?
- What are the existing frameworks for assessing language interpretation in health care?
To answer these questions, we will be conducting:
- Scoping reviews to synthesize the existing literature that connects professional interpretation services to patient outcomes and health system costs, key components of health care quality.
- A jurisdictional scan that will provide an overview of how other jurisdictions both locally and internationally measure accessibility, availability, and quality of interpretation services in health care settings.
- A summary report that ties together our findings from the scoping reviews and jurisdictional scan, along with recommendations for policy action.
If you would like to learn more about this research, or if you have ideas to share, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.