A study published last week found that Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Latino patients are less likely to adhere to medication regimens for type 2 diabetes than white and English-speaking Latino patients.

The study appeared in The Journal of The American Medical Association and found that a physician’s fluency in Spanish had no effect on the results, suggesting more than just quality interpreting is needed to remedy the problem.

The research was conducted over the span of six years and examined medication habits among LEP, white and English-speaking Latino patients at a “large integrated health delivery system with professional interpreter services,” according to the study’s abstract.

Inadequate medical adherence, or not filling prescriptions at least 20 percent of the time during the two years following prescription, was observed in 60.2 percent of LEP Latino patients. Inadequate medical adherence was found in 51.7 percent of English-speaking Latinos and only 37.5 percent in white patients.

A similar trend was seen with insulin prescriptions. LEP Latino patients were more likely to have the medication dispensed only once, the study found.

More Than Access to Interpreters

The Spanish fluency of physicians did not affect the likelihood of whether LEP patients would take their medication as prescribed, according to the research. The study’s authors posit that “intervention beyond access to interpreters or patient-physician language concordance will be required” to improve subsequent outcomes.

However, as Reuters reports, a separate study did show Latinos to have better blood sugar control when dealing with Spanish-speaking doctors rather than English language physicians.

Despite the availability of Spanish-speaking physicians not having an effect on the recent study, the authors still advocated for the use of more bilingual doctors and professional interpretation services. It was recommended by the study’s authors that “individual barriers” to medication are looked into, as well, including worry about possible symptoms and cost.

Poor Language Services, Poor Patient Outcomes

We’ve talked about the importance of certified medical interpreters before, associating poor language services with poor outcomes for LEP patients.

Those who have a hard time speaking the native language are already at a disadvantage, and not providing foreign speakers adequate interpretation services makes matters worse.

A qualified and experienced language interpreter should act as a compassionate ally of LEP patients in a healthcare environment.

United Language Group acquired Language Select, a leading provider of interpretation services, in December. Visit our Interpreting page for more information.

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Jake Schild

Jake Schild

A former newspaper reporter and native Minnesotan, Jake Schild is a staff writer in the marketing department at ULG.

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