Doctors warned on using Google Translate in consultations

USING Google Translate in medical consultations risks introducing communication errors that could lead to litigation, says MDDUS.

A recent BMJ report from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that doctors were using Google Translate to overcome language barriers in patient consultations.

Responding to findings, MDDUS medical adviser Dr Naeem Nazem commented: “We would recommend extreme caution in using, and relying on, computer translation in everyday clinical practice.

“In usual clinical practice, the risks of using computer translations, in the presence of validated alternatives, is likely to increase the risks to patient safety and leave doctors vulnerable to criticism and, potentially, regulatory action or litigation in the event of an adverse outcome.”

Dr Nazem points out that Google Translate would fail to meet standards issued by NHS England on the requirements for, and use of, interpreters and translators in primary care. “It has not been validated for use in medical consultations, and the risk of error is significant.”

Dr Nazem acknowledged that there may be situations where online translation could be useful. “In the event of an emergency, or other exceptional circumstance, computer translations may have a limited role, but in such circumstances the treating clinician must be able to justify their actions,” he said.

The researchers concluded that the reliance on online services was partly driven by difficulties in using services provided by the NHS.

Source: BMJ