Language Barriers in Medicine in the United States

Steven Woloshin, MD; Nina A. Bickell, MD, MPH; Lisa M. Schwartz, MD; Francesca Gany, MD; H. Gilbert Welch, MD, MPH
JAMA. 1995;273(9):724-728. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520330054037.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

What the scalpel is to the surgeon, words are to the clinician... the conversation between doctor and patient is the heart of the practice of medicine.1

The physician-patient relationship is built through communication and the effective use of language. Along with clinical reasoning, observations, and nonverbal cues, skillful use of language endows the history with its clinical power and establishes the medical interview as the clinician's most powerful tool.2-5 Language is the means by which a physician accesses a patient's beliefs about health and illness,6 creating an opportunity to address and reconcile different belief systems. Furthermore, it is through language that physicians and patients achieve an empathic connection that may be therapeutic in itself.7

Because of language barriers, millions of US residents cannot have this connection with their physician. According to the 1990 US Census,8 almost 14 million people living in the United States do


Sign In to Access Full Content

Don't have Access?

Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more

Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features

Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)

Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours

First Page Preview

View Large
First page PDF preview




Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Sign In to Access Full Content

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.