Interpreter Services to Enhance Quality, Safety, and Equity in Patient Care

November 25, 2022

By Dr. Vanessa Redditt

Access to professionally trained interpreters is critical in providing high quality, respectful, and safe care to our patients who are not comfortable communicating in English. Ensuring use of interpreter services is part of our collective commitment to equity and excellence in serving all patients in the language of their choice. Inconsistent use of interpreter services compounds existing inequities facing newcomers and others who are not comfortable speaking in English, many of whom are racialized individuals. Language barriers can lead to misdiagnosis, inappropriate testing and treatment, gaps in patient understanding of instructions, breaches in informed consent, and other medical errors, in addition to inefficiency and decreased patient satisfaction.(1)

Addressing language diversity is critical from the perspectives of equity, quality, and safety—principles core to health care delivery. Just as it would be inappropriate to conduct a skin exam with our eyes closed or listen to a patient’s heart without a stethoscope, it’s also unsafe and inappropriate to conduct any aspect of clinical care in a language that someone cannot understand. 

It’s best practice to use professionally trained interpreters instead of family members, friends, or ad hoc non-interpreter staff to ensure accuracy and confidentiality.(1) 

Use of interpreter services is important for all interactions— from a clerical phone call appointment notification to a technician’s instructions during an imaging procedure to a clinician’s history taking and counseling. 

At WCH, we can access interpreter support through ‘on-demand’ phone interpretation or through pre-booked in-person interpreters.

Phone interpretation is available 24/7 andprovides immediate access to interpreters in over 180 languages. It can be used for in-person or virtual visits, scheduled or unscheduled encounters, phone call notifications for appointments or other instructions, procedures, and any other service needs. It’s easy to access, whether you’re working at the hospital or from home:

  1. Call the Language Line: 416-504-4578
  2. Follow the prompt to select the desired language (key in first 3 letters of the language)
  3. Enter your 6 digit CLIENT ID (this is specific to each clinic or department)
  4. Enter the 3 digit SECURE ACCESS CODE (a unified code across WCH)

Revised posters will be posted at each workstation with these instructions and client ID and will also be emailed to all staff and physicians by clinic managers to ensure this information is readily available. 

In-person interpretation for scheduled visits can be booked in advance via clinic administrative support. Further details are available on the WCH intranet.

The GTA’s diverse population includes a rich tapestry of linguistic diversity. As part of our responsibility to serve our broad community and advance health equity, we must ensure that all patients receive dignified, quality care in a language they understand through consistent use of interpretation services.

1. Laher N, Sultana A, Aery A, Kumar N. Access to Language Interpretation Services and its Impact on Clinical and Patient Outcomes: A Scoping Review. Toronto, ON: Wellesley Institute; 2018 [cited 2022 Nov 24]. Available from: