Impact of Interpreters on the Receipt of New Prescription Medication Information Among Spanish-Speaking Latinos

This article examines how Latinos who are not fluent in English receive information about the purpose, side effects and correct usage of prescribed medications. The Latino population is rapidly increasing throughout the United States and language barriers can make it difficult for providers to deliver optimal medical care. This study also assesses how the use of interpreters influences study subjects' understanding of their medications.

The authors analyzed survey data from 1,590 Latino adults with limited English proficiency who participated in the Hablamos Juntos project between 2003 and 2006. Respondents, who had received a new prescription for medication within the previous year, completed a computer-assisted telephone interview.

Key Findings:

  • Seventy-two percent of patients prescribed a new medication reported being told about the purpose of the medication. Fifty-two percent reported being told about the medication's side effects and 70 percent about how to take the medication.
  • Almost half (44%) of respondents received written information in Spanish about their medication from their pharmacy.
  • Patients who had access to interpreters were more likely to report receiving information about side effects, medication directions and the purpose of the medication.

Latino patients with limited English proficiency face barriers to receiving information about their medications. Patients with access to interpreters received more information about their medications. Because better patient-provider communication can lead to better clinical outcomes, it is important to pursue policies and practices that lead to improved communication for patients with limited English proficiency.