How a simple translation tool is helping doctors and immigrants communicate
Globe and Mail Update
Published Friday, May. 04, 2012 7:05PM EDT
Last updated Saturday, May. 05, 2012 12:20AM EDT
Now in use across the country, the guide is a simple tool – a computer-based list of phonetic pronunciations of medical symptoms and questions in the 15 most-spoken languages in Ontario – but it addresses a major obstacle that immigrants face when accessing health care.
“In the emergency department, if somebody comes in with a serious problem and there’s nobody there that speaks that language,” says Dr. Ray, 44, a clinician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, “you immediately have a barrier to the information exchange that’s critical to finding out what’s wrong.”
In one recent study, he identified a Caucasian bias in birth-weight standards used in most hospitals that could cause ethnic-minority newborns to be labelled as underweight. His revisions may reduce the need for unnecessary follow-ups, tests and worry among immigrant mothers.
In another study, he outlined the elevated risk for gestational diabetes for immigrant women, and called for improved ethnic classification (for example, “South Asian” instead of just “Asian”) so practitioners can evaluate patients more accurately.
Doctors and nurses are on the front lines with immigrant patients, Dr. Ray says, so hospitals should be ground zero for cultural innovation.
Do you know an immigration innovator? The Globe would like to hear from you – nominate an innovator here.