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ngd-What could go wrong? On the other hand, there are lots of patient instruction errors that don’t involve translation.
In hospitals that serve multicultural areas, doctors are increasingly looking for ways to translate their discharge instructions into languages they don’t speak. A new study finds that Google Translate may be up to the job – with some caveats.
Researchers examining 100 sets of emergency room patient discharge instructions converted into Spanish and Chinese from English by Google Translate determined there were very few significant errors. In one case, however, the translation could have led to a life-threatening medication error, they report in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“We are cautiously pleased with the results,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Elaine Khoong, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco and an internist at San Francisco General Hospital. “We would recommend its use with some caveats, the first of which being that the translated instructions be given in conjunction with a translator walking them through it and with the English written text. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than no written instructions at all.”
Khoong’s advice to physicians wanting to use Google Translate is to make sure they communicate clearly in plain English with no jargon. “You want to write simple sentences below the fifth-grade level,” she added.