Overcoming Language Barriers in the Pharmacy Setting

Millions of Americans speak a primary language at home other than English, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 22 million U.S. residents have limited English proficiency which is defined as the self-rated ability to speak English “less than very well.” The number of people with limited English speaking ability in the United States has grown greatly over the past years.


Language barriers can pose a serious health risk to limited-English patients. One of the areas affected is medication. Research has shown that those with little knowledge of English do not have a good understanding of how to take medications.


They are not sure about what the proper dosage is, what the side effects of the medication are, when they should take the medication, and other warnings, such as not operating heavy machinery when taking the medication, or not drinking alcoholic beverages when taking the medication. Helping these people is especially challenging with regard to medication because each prescription needs to be tailored to each individual patient.


So, it is important to help people with limited English for medication. However, there are several barriers to effectively getting the proper services to them. There are not enough bilingual speakers, considerable cost constraints, as well as cases where multiple labels need to be explained.


What can be done to help this population of limited-English speakers? Experts say that these patients need to be informed about language services that are available. If there is no bilingual staff person available, an interpreter during clinical visits can ensure that these patients get all the important information they need in their native language.


Other actions that can be taken include improving the translation quality of medication labels and inserts, improving prescription translation software and increasing the distribution of multilingual materials. Many pharmaceutical companies do provide product information in other languages, especially Spanish, and expanding this program would improve the situation.


If you’re a pharmacy, hospital or other medical facility looking for skilled and reliable bilingual pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, contact Rx relief® today. We look forward to hearing from you.