August 24, 2023

How To Break Down Language Barriers For A More Efficient Healthcare Environment

The UK has been a multicultural country for decades, with many businesses boasting employees with different nationalities, cultures, religions and, of course, languages. None more so than the NHS, the UK’s largest and one of the world’s largest employers, with an incredible 1.6 million members of staff*.

But such a behemoth in the world’s healthcare industry faces an increasingly challenging battle with regards language barriers and miscommunication and the true impact these are having on care and the resultant wellbeing of staff and patients alike.

In the latest Pocketalk report of 1,000 UK healthcare workers, more than a fifth are facing language difficulties with colleagues and patients every week – one in 10 said it occurred daily. Almost half of healthcare workers also disclosed that managing language translation with patients can present worrying safeguarding issues.

The impact of this issue is obvious – increased waiting times, large amounts of money spent on translators and working days lost every month, due to the challenges of overcoming language barriers between healthcare workers and their patients and families.

And the numbers speak for themselves. The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) revealed a staggering £113,974,561 was spent on interpreters and translation services in healthcare between 2019-20 and 2021-22.

That said, it is an absolute necessity that healthcare professionals and patients can understand each other in situations that are, at best, sensitive and, at worst, life-changing; something that is supported in guidance by the GMC (General Medical Council).

So what’s the solution to help ease this challenging, stressful and costly situation?

Pocketalk has carried out research that shows overcoming language barriers is one of many things being added to an already extensive workload, and it is something that needs better support. The industrial action we’ve seen in the last few months shows how critical it is that we look at ways of supporting the healthcare system as efficiently as we can, and technology plays a role here.

Jessica O’Dwyer, general manager at Pocketalk says: “Within healthcare, clear and empathetic communication between the medical professional and the patient and their families is crucial. Language barriers in this sector must be addressed, but in a way that doesn’t add to an already very heavy workload for workers.

There is a case here for UK NHS Trusts to explore mobile technology solutions which would cut the millions of pounds being spent on language translation. There is also an opportunity for quick, easy-to-use, GDPR compliant technology to attract non-English speaking workers, which would help overcome the talent shortages and poor retention that healthcare is experiencing.”

Pocketalk already works with many worldwide healthcare organisations providing its handheld translation device to help ease the issue of language barriers. The Pocketalk device improves day-to-day communication through convenient, instant translations without the long wait times or the scheduling hassles.

The device’s speed, accuracy, and clarity can save money spent on translation services in the healthcare industry and crucial time can be saved by healthcare professionals. What’s more, it can translate into over 82 languages, thereby catering to patients of almost every nationality.