Digital Solutions Could Cure Medical Translation Shortage

Sweden is lacking medical interpreters which is problematic both for patients and hospitals. For many languages, there are no professional translators at all in the field, meanwhile the demand is rapidly increasing.

Sweden is currently lacking medical interpreters in many languages nationwide, meanwhile the demand for interpreters is increasing. One of the reasons is the large number of refugees that arrived to the country last year. Four years ago, Radio Sweden did research showing that there was, for example, no medical interpreters who could speak Somali, a common language spoken by immigrants in Sweden. There were also no interpreters speaking Dari, which is the biggest language in Afghanistan, or Tigrinya which is spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Many interpreters are also leaving the profession. The majority of interpreters are hired as freelance, which makes the job unstable. At the same time, the role comes with heavy responsibility as the patient’s health relies on them. If the language is not working and a patient is not able to describe symptoms or allergies they have, doctors will not be able to do a proper examination of the patient.

At the moment, the process of getting an interpreter for a non-Swedish speaker is long. From arriving to the hospital, the staff there needs to first contact an external agency who will get in touch with interpreters until they find someone who is available. The interpreter then has to contact the doctor and translate through the phone. The process is far from ideal and the issues with not having enough interpreters is causing issues both for patients and hospitals as it is very time consuming.

One easy solution for this is to digitalise the system. The resources can then be used in smarter ways and interpreters time can be better spent than waiting for the next job. It would also help with double bookings and other practical issues as the process of finding interpreters will be faster.

Read the article HERE (in Swedish)