Effect of language interpretation modality on throughput and mortality for critical care patients: A retrospective observational study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

OBJECTIVE: Limited data exist describing possible delays in patient transfer from the emergency department (ED) as a result of language barriers and the effects of interpretation services. We described the differences in ED length of stay (LOS) before intensive care unit (ICU) arrival and mortality based on availability of telephone or in-person interpretation services. METHODS: Using an ICU database from an urban academic tertiary care hospital, ED patients entering the ICU were divided into groups based on primary language and available interpretation services (in-person vs telephone). Non-parametric tests were used to compare ED LOS and mortality between groups. RESULTS: Among 22,422 included encounters, English was recorded as the primary language for 51% of patients (11,427), and 9% of patients (2042) had a primary language other than English. Language was not documented for 40% of patients (8953). Among encounters with patients with non-English primary languages, in-person interpretation was available for 63% (1278) and telephone interpretation was available for 37% (764). In the English-language group, median ED LOS was 292 minutes (interquartile range [IQR], 205-412) compared with 309 minutes (IQR, 214-453) for patients speaking languages with in-person interpretation available and 327 minutes (IQR, 225-463) for patients speaking languages with telephone interpretation available. Mortality was higher among patients with telephone (15%) or in-person (11%) interpretation available compared with patients who primarily spoke English (9%). CONCLUSIONS: Patients with primary languages other than English who were critically ill spent a median of 17 to 35 more minutes in the ED before ICU arrival and experienced higher mortality rates compared with patients who spoke English as a primary language.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Oca, SR; Navas, A; Leiman, E; Buckland, DM

Published Date

  • August 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 2 / 4

Start / End Page

  • e12477 -

PubMed ID

  • 34263246

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8253091

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2688-1152

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/emp2.12477


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States