October 2002 Bulletin

Meet patient needs with Spanish materials

Imagine you are a patient consulting an orthopaedic surgeon but you don’t speak English. You’re in pain and need treatment. How do you convey your problem, especially if there’s not a translator on the physician’s staff? Just as important, how does the doctor communicate the diagnosis to you, explain the treatment and get you to agree to a treatment protocol?

That’s the situation faced by millions of immigrants in the United States. The largest group is made up of Spanish-speaking people. There are 18 cities in the United States with 100,000 or more people that have greater than 50 percent Hispanic/Latino population; five cities have more than 600,000 Hispanics.

"In my state of California, one out of three people is of Latino heritage," says Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, chairman of the AAOS Patient Education Committee. "Many don’t read or comprehend English. A physician who can’t communicate with them can’t deliver the most effective care."

Although Dr. Jimenez is of Mexican heritage, 97.6 percent of orthopaedists are not of Latino origin. Even with a bilingual staff or access to translators, explaining diagnoses and treatment options can be problematic. Yet such communication is vital, particularly to ensure a patient’s understanding of a diagnosis, acceptance of a treatment and adherence to the protocol.

Over the past year, the AAOS Patient Education Committee has made a priority of translating patient information from Your Orthopaedic Connection, the AAOS Public/Patient Education Web site, into Spanish. The committee began by selecting 20 common conditions. These have now been translated, using a "neutral" Spanish, intelligible to every speaker, but not reflective of any specific country or dialect. Seven additional articles are currently being reviewed. (See sidebar for listing.) Those materials codeveloped with an orthopaedic specialty society also are made available for posting on that organization’s Web site.

Outside the committee, several other AAOS members, in the United States and internationally, served as reviewers to ensure that the documents are understandable across linguistic "borders." Among those who assisted were: Jose Collazo-Bonilla, MD (Puerto Rico); Rolando Manuel Leal Cantu, MD (Mexico); Alfredo F. Fernandez, MD (U.S.); Guillermo Carrillo Guerrero, MD (Mexico); Carlos A. Garcia-Moral, MD (U.S.); Jose Alberto Reyes Pedroza, MD (Mexico); Jose G. Ramon, MD (U.S.), and Ray R. Valdez, MD (U.S.).

At its next meeting, the Patient Education Committee will select another round of articles for translation. If you would like to recommend a topic, please forward your suggestion to Dr. Jimenez. He can be reached at rljmd@att.net.

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