Eighteen years ago the U.S. Census Bureau’s year 2000 census reported almost 47 million people or 18% of the U.S, population spoke a language other than English at home. One study concluded that an estimated 10 million people in the United States are identified as hard of hearing, meaning they have difficulty hearing normal conversations and close to 1 million people are functionally deaf.
Considering these statistics, ensuring effective, meaningful communication between physicians and their patients can be a challenging task. However, good communication is essential to establishing a meaningful physician-patient relationship. In the case of a patient with limited English proficiency or who is hearing impaired, physicians ethically and legally obligated to assess the communication needs of the patient and take steps necessary to allow for effective communication. In many instances, meaningful communication can only be achieved through use of interpretation services.
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