Patient perceptions of the readability and helpfulness of bilingual clinical forms: a survey study

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BMC Medical Education


Background: Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) are rarely provided with translated clinical materials. Typically, healthcare clinics cite high costs of translation and lack of professional translators as barriers to this service. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the perceptions of LEP dental patients regarding the readability, understanding, and helpfulness of translated clinical forms produced by dental student doctor translators. Methods: We used a survey design and convenience sampling to recruit LEP patients from a dental school clinic. Participants completed a 9-question (8 Likert-type items and 1 open-ended item) paper survey about translated forms. The bilingual survey was a combination of English and 8 other languages (Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Urdu, or Vietnamese) and assessed the type of form received; self-reported literacy; design, readability, and helpfulness of the form; overall understanding of the form; understanding of medical and dental terms; helpfulness for patient-provider communication; and comfort level with dental care after receiving the form. Demographic characteristics of participants were collected from the clinic’s electronic health record. Survey responses were analyzed descriptively, and Spearman’s correlation was used to examine the relationship between outcomes. Results: Ninety-seven LEP patients (61.9% [60] female, 78.4% [70] Spanish speakers) completed 140 surveys for various translated forms in Dari, Pashto, Spanish, Urdu, or Vietnamese. Participants positively rated translated clinical forms: range, 50.4% (70) for design of the form to 80.0% (112) for comfort level with dental care after receiving the form. For the open-ended item, participants indicated the translations were good, and no improvements were needed. They also thought providing the form was evidence of good customer service. When examining relationships between outcomes, positive correlations were found between self-reported literacy and readability (Spearman r =.57, P <.001), overall understanding and understanding of medical and dental terms (Spearman r =.58, P <.001), and type of form and helpfulness for patient-provider communication (Spearman r =.26, P =.005). Conclusions: Study results suggested the translated clinical forms were perceived as helpful and beneficial by LEP dental patients. Similar approaches should be considered to reduce language barriers in healthcare.



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