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Leading Health Care Access Advocates Call for National Certification of Medical Interpreters.

Top Industry Experts Initiate a Task Force to Eliminate Language Barriers to Quality Health Care

BOSTON -- A limited English speaking 18-year-old who said he was "intoxicado," which can mean nauseated, recently spent 36 hours being treated for a drug overdose in a Florida hospital before doctors realized he had a brain aneurysm. A toddler who fell off her tricycle was taken from her mother because a hospital interpreter mistranslated the Spanish words "Se pego" to mean "I hit her" rather than "She hit herself." Highlighting these and other true stories of miscommunication, patient advocates, the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association (MMIA) and other organizations and stakeholders are pushing forward the call for a national medical interpreter certification program in order to eliminate linguistic and cultural barriers to quality health care for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

A newly formed National Medical Interpreter Certification Task Force is underway and founding participants are inviting representatives from the National Council on Interpreting Health Care (NCIHC), other state interpreter associations, educators, government policymakers, interpreters and others to join them in creating a nationwide team that will discuss formalizing a certification process for medical interpreters. This initiative is the first consolidated effort across state lines and industry sectors to govern the quality of language services in our nation's health care institutions.

"Despite all of our country's leading medical innovations, the United States' LEP population still doesn't have equal access to heath care," added Izabel Arocha, M.Ed., and President of the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association (MMIA). "A national collaborative effort is the only way to overcome language and cultural barriers to delivering quality care."

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has long prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. President Clinton's Executive Order 13166, "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency" issued in 2000, attempted to clarify and strengthen the language access implications of Title VI, but it has left gaps in structure and enforcement. Without national certification, hospitals and other facilities have responded to this requirement in dramatically different ways.

"It's staggering the number of miscommunications between health care providers and limited English speaking patients that lead to misdiagnosis and improper medical treatment," said Louis Provenzano, President and Chief Operating Officer of Language Line Services. "What's even more tragic is that these medical mistakes are easily avoided if patients are provided qualified and well-trained medical interpreters."

In addition to improving access to quality care, the National Certification Program is also aimed at raising awareness of the role played by medical interpreters.

"Health care professionals are required to meet standardized guidelines before treating patients and, where LEP patients are concerned, an interpreter's skill level is just as integral to quality care," said Linda Joyce, a language access consultant and the former Director of Language Interpretive Services at Grady Health System in Atlanta. "A national certification program will not only improve competency in medical interpreting, it will elevate the entire interpreting profession."

MMIA, Language Line Services, and many other organizations will convene in Boston, Massachusetts the morning of May 1st, to discuss key topics surrounding the development of a national certification for medical interpreters. Exact time and place will be announced.

This first-ever assembly will bring together industry thought leaders and speakers with significant expertise in the subject to openly share their experiences in the development of medical certification. For more information about the National Medical Interpreter Certification Task Force, please contact Linda Joyce at 304-577-9338. To pledge support for a National Medical Certification, visit

About MMIA

The Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association (MMIA) is a non-profit organization committed to decreasing healthcare disparities worldwide through the advancement of professional medical interpreters. Founded in 1986, MMIA members provide interpreting services in over 70 languages, and is the oldest and largest medical interpreter association with over 1,500 members. Membership to the MMIA is open to all those employed in, interested in, or concerned with language access and medical interpreting. The organization pioneered the first Medical Interpreter Code of Ethics in 1987 and the first Medical Interpreting Standards of Practice in 1992. It holds the largest conference on medical interpreting each Fall with over 600 attendees, which has been the pivotal catalyst for the advancement of the profession. Visit

About Language Line Services

As the leading provider of interpreting services to health care organizations throughout the United States, Language Line Services trains and certifies its interpreters specifically for healthcare situations to insure quality interpretations in medical diagnosis, treatment and preventative care. The company delivers a dynamic suite of solutions spanning phone and video interpretation, document translation, interactive software-based translation, and interpreter training and certification programs, enabling clients to communicate with customers in their preferred languages. Through its leading-edge technology infrastructure, Language Line Services delivers support for over 170 unique languages to its industry-leading portfolio of clients across markets including health care, financial services, government, telecom, packaged goods, insurance services, travel, and more. For information on how Language Line Services is helping healthcare organizations meet the needs of a constantly changing diverse patient population and regulatory compliance objectives, call 1-800-752-6096 or visit
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Mar 9, 2007
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