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Many Pharmacies Can't Talk to Non-English Speakers

Bilingual staff and other changes might improve communication

MONDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- As many as two-thirds of pharmacies are rarely if ever able to verbally communicate with their non-English speaking clients, according to a study of Wisconsin pharmacies published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Glenn Flores, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues asked pharmacists or technicians at 175 Milwaukee County pharmacies to fill out a 45-question survey about their communication practices.

The researchers found that out of the 128 respondents, 64 percent never or only sometimes spoke in languages other than English, 54 percent never or only sometimes prepared information packets in languages other than English, and 47 percent never or only sometimes printed prescription labels in languages other than English. Eleven percent relied on clients' family or friends for interpretation.

Community pharmacies were far less likely to communicate in languages other than English compared with pharmacies with telephone interpretation services. About half of the pharmacies were dissatisfied with their ability to communicate and suggested improvements ranging from hiring bilingual staff to adding languages to pharmacy software.

"The study findings suggest that many pharmacies may not provide adequate services to their patients with limited English proficiency, thereby limiting appropriate access to health care and increasing the risk of compromised patient safety," the authors write.

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