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Book: Interpreter-Mediated Healthcare Communication

Chapter: The Comparison of Shared Decision Making in Monolingual and Bilingual Health Encounters

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44101


In the United States, Hispanics with limited English proficiency (LEP) experience disproportionate disparities in health services, a phenomenon that relates to communication and decision making. After a quality improvement review identified a disparity in obstetric services for Hispanic women with LEP, a pilot study discussed here explored how LEP and the presence of a medical interpreter affected shared decision making in comparisons of monolingual (English) and bilingual (English-Spanish) encounters with the same physician. A series of 16 prenatal encounters between physicians, patients, and medical interpreters were recorded. First, medical visits were recorded with eight Spanish-speaking mothers using a hospital interpreter to speak with their physician. The same physician was then recorded discussing a similar prenatal agenda with a primary language English-speaking patient. Discourse analysis was used to categorize discursive practices in social interaction. Both encounters were rated using the OPTION shared decision-making scale. Results portray how shared decision making shifts in second-language situations and the associated practices that distinguish monolingual and bilingual encounters. Examples of discursive practices suggest strategies that may mark ethnolinguistic identity and membership categorization indirectly during health encounters.

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