Use of Language-Interpreter Consent Form

by Glennda Gore, RHIA

In an effort to comply with the upcoming HIPAA confidentiality requirements, McAlester Regional Health Center has begun to review all policies and procedures concerning patient confidentiality and data security. During this process, the use of language interpreters was identified as one area of concern. Our hospital is a 197-bed hospital located in southeastern Oklahoma. Although we do not have a large Spanish-speaking population, it is occasionally necessary to find an interpreter to help patients communicate with our hospital staff. In some cases, this may be the housekeeper speaking for an Obstetrics patient. We also occasionally rely on sign-language interpreters for communication.

We had no policy in place for obtaining consent from the patient for the use of an interpreter. Our goal was to develop a policy and procedure that ensured patient confidentiality in all aspects of health care and to comply with HIPAA standards. In retrospect, I hate to think what information the housekeeper was obtaining for the completion of the patient's birth certificate, for example. Although all hospital employees are trained on patient confidentiality, it can be quite embarrassing to ask the personal questions required for filing of birth certificates.

We designed a consent form to be used when a language interpreter is required for communication. Once our legal counsel and Medical Records Committee granted permission to use the form, we implemented its use with much success and relief. Upon admission, patients are told the reasoning behind the use of the form and seem grateful that we have taken this extra step to ensure their confidentiality.

Consent Form for Use of Language Interpreter

Source: FORE Practice Solution (2002)