Interpretation time in an ethnically diverse pediatric orthopedic clinic

Moon Lee, Mary Sobralske, Ellen Raney, Brian Carino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to determine whether there were differences in clinical encounter time between patients who speak English and those who require an interpretation service in an ethnically diverse pediatric clinic. Design/methodology/approach – Encounter time with patients requiring interpretation was compared to encounter time with patients who spoke English. The sample consisted of 310 encounters at a pediatric orthopedic clinic where patients spoke over 18 primary languages. Data were analyzed using ANOVA to compare four types of encounters. Findings – Approximately 12 percent (n=38) required interpretation and encounters requiring interpretation took 30 percent (nine minutes) longer than those that did not, p<0.01(25 vs 16 minutes). Furthermore, this difference was mainly among new patients: Approximately, 53 percent increase in time for new patient encounters requiring interpretation (36 vs 23 minutes) while only 25 percent increase in encounter time for established patients (20 vs 16 minutes) was detected. Research limitations/implications – Preventing problems due to language barriers requires time for interpretation which places demands on staff resources and presents clinical challenges. However, long-term benefits of quality health care outweigh the costs associated with interpretation service. Originality/value – To the knowledge, this is the first study to investigate actual encounter time differences in a pediatric clinical setting. The authors found that clinical encounters requiring interpretation took approximately nine minutes longer in general and four minutes longer for established patients. These findings could give much needed information for hospital administrators to allocate appropriate amounts of time and resources to care for those who need interpretation services. However, they also indicate a broader concern of the reduction of clinical encounter time for overall health care system in the country that might need further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-540
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Organization and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 20 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Activity based costs
  • Health care
  • Hospital management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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