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2014 National Patient Safety Goals – How can qualified, professional interpreters help?

07 Apr

The Joint Commission (TJC) periodically updates its National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) in order to promote specific improvements in patient safety in the hospital setting.  In order to be accredited by TJC, hospitals must implement the NPSGs to improve safety and quality of care.  TJC is the nation’s largest health care accrediting body, with over 20,000 organizations being TJC-accredited.  A new set of revised NPSGs was recently issued, and they took effect on January 1, 2014.  The 2014 NSPGs can be viewed here:

As hospitals evaluate how the provision of language services can help improve patient safety, we should pay close attention to NPSG.03.06.01Maintain and communicate accurate patient medication information. This goal specifically focuses on what is called “medication reconciliation” – making sure medications that a patient is currently taking do not affect or interact with new medications that may be prescribed.  TJC points out that obtaining a complete list of current medications from a patient can be very difficult.  They also advise that the patient’s ability and willingness to provide this information may affect the accuracy of the information.

When discussing medications with a patient who is Limited English Proficient (LEP), the use of a qualified, professional medical interpreter is the only way to ensure effective communication.  As discussed in NPSG.03.06.01, information about current medications that is collected from a patient should include details such as medication name, dose, frequency, route, and purpose.  This can become a very meticulous and complicated task with patients who take multiple medications.

NPSG.03.06.01 also addresses the need to discuss with the patient the importance of managing medication information after discharge.  This includes instructing the patient to provide a list of all medications to his or her primary care physician (PCP), to always carry a list of medications in the event of an emergency, and to make sure to update any change in medications with the PCP.  TJC also mandates the provision of written information at discharge on how to take all medications that have been prescribed.  Depending on the resources available, hospitals may provide translated instructions by contracting with external document translation companies/independent contractors, or they may utilize the services of qualified, professional translators who are employees of the hospital.

CyraCom employs over 1,000 employee interpreters in US call centers in Arizona and New Mexico.  After passing a very rigorous language proficiency and qualification assessment, our employee interpreters receive 120 hours of in-person, classroom training.  This training includes an in-depth pharmaceuticals module which prepares our interpreters to interpret during any medication-related encounter.  CyraCom is dedicated to helping our hospital clients improve patient safety and to adhere to all NSPGs in accordance with TJCs accreditation standards.

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