Are language barriers associated with serious medical events in hospitalized pediatric patients?

Adam L. Cohen, Frederick Rivara, Edgar K. Marcuse, Heather McPhillips, Robert Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

154 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective. Language barriers may lead to medical errors by impeding patient-provider communication. The objective of this study was to determine whether hospitalized pediatric patients whose families have language barriers are more likely to incur serious medical errors than patients whose families do not have language barriers. Methods. A case-control study was conducted in a large, academic, regional children's hospital in the Pacific Northwest. Case patients (n = 97) included all hospitalizations of patients who were younger than 21 years and had a reported serious medical event from January 1, 1998, to December 31, 2003. Control patients (n = 475) were chosen from hospitalizations without a reported serious medical event and were matched with case patients on age, admitting service, admission to intensive care, and date of admission. The main exposure was a language barrier defined by self- or provider-reported need for an interpreter. Serious medical events were defined as events that led to unintended or potentially adverse outcomes identified by the hospital's quality improvement staff. Results. Fourteen (14.4%) of the case patients and 53 (11.2%) of the control patients were assigned an interpreter during their hospitalization. Overall, we found no increased risk for serious medical events in patients and families who requested an interpreter compared with patients and families who did not request an interpreter (odds ratio: 1.36; 95% confidence interval: 0.73-2.55). Spanish-speaking patients who requested an interpreter comprised 11 (11.3%) of the case patients and 26 (5.5%) of the control patients. This subgroup had a twofold increased risk for serious medical events compared with patients who did not request an interpreter (odds ratio: 2.26; 95% confidence interval: 1.06-4.81). Conclusions. Spanish-speaking patients whose families have a language barrier seem to have a significantly increased risk for serious medical events during pediatric hospitalization compared with patients whose families do not have a language barrier.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-579
Number of pages5
JournalPediatrics
Volume116
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Communication Barriers
Pediatrics
Hospitalization
Medical Errors
Odds Ratio
Northwestern United States
Confidence Intervals

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

Cite this

Are language barriers associated with serious medical events in hospitalized pediatric patients? / Cohen, Adam L.; Rivara, Frederick; Marcuse, Edgar K.; McPhillips, Heather; Davis, Robert.

In: Pediatrics, Vol. 116, No. 3, 01.09.2005, p. 575-579.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cohen, Adam L. ; Rivara, Frederick ; Marcuse, Edgar K. ; McPhillips, Heather ; Davis, Robert. / Are language barriers associated with serious medical events in hospitalized pediatric patients?. In: Pediatrics. 2005 ; Vol. 116, No. 3. pp. 575-579.
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abstract = "Objective. Language barriers may lead to medical errors by impeding patient-provider communication. The objective of this study was to determine whether hospitalized pediatric patients whose families have language barriers are more likely to incur serious medical errors than patients whose families do not have language barriers. Methods. A case-control study was conducted in a large, academic, regional children's hospital in the Pacific Northwest. Case patients (n = 97) included all hospitalizations of patients who were younger than 21 years and had a reported serious medical event from January 1, 1998, to December 31, 2003. Control patients (n = 475) were chosen from hospitalizations without a reported serious medical event and were matched with case patients on age, admitting service, admission to intensive care, and date of admission. The main exposure was a language barrier defined by self- or provider-reported need for an interpreter. Serious medical events were defined as events that led to unintended or potentially adverse outcomes identified by the hospital's quality improvement staff. Results. Fourteen (14.4{\%}) of the case patients and 53 (11.2{\%}) of the control patients were assigned an interpreter during their hospitalization. Overall, we found no increased risk for serious medical events in patients and families who requested an interpreter compared with patients and families who did not request an interpreter (odds ratio: 1.36; 95{\%} confidence interval: 0.73-2.55). Spanish-speaking patients who requested an interpreter comprised 11 (11.3{\%}) of the case patients and 26 (5.5{\%}) of the control patients. This subgroup had a twofold increased risk for serious medical events compared with patients who did not request an interpreter (odds ratio: 2.26; 95{\%} confidence interval: 1.06-4.81). Conclusions. Spanish-speaking patients whose families have a language barrier seem to have a significantly increased risk for serious medical events during pediatric hospitalization compared with patients whose families do not have a language barrier.",
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