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

Moreno, Gerardo MD, MSHS*†; Tarn, Derjung M. MD, PhD†; Morales, Leo S. MD, PhD‡§

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181adcc1b
Original Article

Background: For Latinos, limited English proficiency (LEP) is a barrier to receiving important information about a new medication prescription. Access to interpreters may impact the receipt of important medication-related information.

Objective: To examine the association between interpreter use and reports of new prescription medication advice among Latinos with LEP.

Methods: We examined cross-sectional survey data from 1590 Latino adults with LEP from 8 sites across the United States. The main outcomes are 5 measures of new prescription medication advising: (1) explanation of medication purpose, (2) explanation of possible side effects, (3) explanation of medication directions, (4) receipt of written information in Spanish from pharmacy, and (5) receipt of medicine bottle with Spanish language label.

Results: Among patients prescribed a new medication, 72% reported being told about the purpose of the medication, 52% about possible side effects, and 70% about how to take the new medicine. Forty-four percent said they received written medication information in Spanish from pharmacy, and 47% said their medicine bottle label was written in Spanish. Interpreter use was independently associated with receiving explanations about: possible side effects (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.81; 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 1.16–2.45); medication directions (AOR = 2.50; 95% CI: 1.67–3.59); and medication purpose (AOR = 3.55; 95% CI: 2.14–4.65).

Conclusions: Among Latinos with LEP, interpreter use increases patient receipt of important information when a new medication is prescribed. There is a continuing need for effective policies and interventions to improve provider communication with LEP patients.

From the *Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at UCLA; †Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; ‡Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Los Angeles, CA; and §RAND Health, Santa Monica, CA.

Reprints: Gerardo Moreno, MD, MS, Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, University of California Los Angeles, 911 Broxton Ave Third Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90095. E-mail: gmoreno@ucla.edu.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.