Providers' Views of the Roles of Medical Interpreters
The importance of medical interpreters to improve the health literacy of patients with limited English proficiency (LEP; e.g., through effective communication with health care providers) has been widely recognized; however their roles and functions are less understood and more widely debated. Although there are a few studies that have examined how interpreters understand their roles in health care settings, no studies have examined health care providers' expectations for the roles of interpreters and the quality of bilingual health communication. The objective of the study is to generate a new communication theory that highlights providers' communicative goals during a medical encounter and educates interpreters to respond to the providers' needs more effectively. The specific aims of this study are (a) to assess providers' experiences with, perceptions of, attitudes about, expectations for medical interpreters and (b) to explore differences in these dimensions across different medical specialties. The proposed study is a two-year project, involving both qualitative and quantitative methods. In year one, focus groups will be conducted with health care providers who have worked with medical interpreters to explore their views of interpreter-mediated interactions. In year two, based on the themes and categories developed from the focus group interviews, the Principal Investigator will develop a questionnaire to survey health care providers about their attitudes about medical interpreters. The use of focus groups in year one to develop and test questionnaires in year two will increase the reliability and validity of the instrument. The specific research questions are: (a) What are providers' experiences with and attitudes about the communicative strategies used by interpreters? (b) What are the criteria used by providers to evaluate the success of bilingual health communication?; (c) What are providers' expectations for interpreters' roles and performances?; and (d) Do providers in different specialties vary in their perceptions, attitudes, and expectations? Answering these questions will allow the Principal Investigator to develop a program of research that includes further developing bilingual health communication theory and designing training programs to increase health literacy of patients with LEP.