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Cost Effectiveness of Language Services in Hospital Emergency Departments (EDs)

This study has been completed.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Identifier:
First received: December 28, 2009
Last updated: September 29, 2015
Last verified: December 2009
Numerous studies suggest that the use of in-person, professionally trained medical interpreters can reduce health care costs associated with diagnosing and treating patients with limited English proficiency. However, few studies have specifically addressed the question of the cost-effectiveness of language services in health care settings. This study used a randomized controlled study design to compare the cost-effectiveness of using professional interpreters with Spanish-speaking patients seen in hospital emergency departments (EDs) versus using the usual language services available to these patients. The main goal of the study was to estimate the effect that professional interpreters have on resource utilization and patient/provider satisfaction in the ED compared to the language services usually offered in these settings. Our hypothesis was that use of trained interpreters would lead to more cost-effective provision of ED services.

Condition Intervention
Language Discordance Behavioral: Professional medical interpreter

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Health Services Research
Official Title: Cost Effectiveness of Language Services in Hospital Emergency Departments

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Cost-effectiveness of in-person interpreters versus other language services [ Time Frame: June 2009 ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Satisfaction with ability to communicate [ Time Frame: June 2009 ]

Enrollment: 447
Study Start Date: October 2008
Study Completion Date: January 2010
Primary Completion Date: April 2009 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: Professional medical interpreter
Limited English proficient Spanish-speaking patients seen in the treatment arm were provided with the services of a professionally-trained medical interpreter to facilitate communication between the patient and emergency department staff
Behavioral: Professional medical interpreter
All treatment interpreters were certified bilingual in Spanish and English and had completed (1) at least 40 hours of training in medical terminology, ethics, patient privacy, and basic interpreting skills; and (2) an online course in protection of human subjects.
No Intervention: Control, Usual Language Services
Patients randomized to the control arm receive the services of the emergency departments' usual language services (i.e., a telephone language line or ad hoc interpreters).


Ages Eligible for Study:   Child, Adult, Senior
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • limited English proficient (LEP) Spanish-speaking patients
  • adults aged 18 or older
  • LEP parents of children seen in emergency departments

Exclusion Criteria:

  • cognitively impaired, comatose, or traumatized patients
  • healthy volunteers
  • prisoners
  • hospital employees
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01041014

United States, New Jersey
CentraState Healthcare System
Freehold, New Jersey, United States, 07728
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States, 08901
Sponsors and Collaborators
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Study Director: Ann D Bagchi, Ph.D. Mathematica Policy Research
Principal Investigator: Stacy Dale, MPA Mathematica Policy Research
Principal Investigator: Robert Eisenstein, MD University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
  More Information

Responsible Party: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Identifier: NCT01041014     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 55879RWJF
Study First Received: December 28, 2009
Last Updated: September 29, 2015

Keywords provided by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.:
Limited English proficiency
Emergency Departments
Language Discordance
Limited English proficient patients
Spanish-speaking patients

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Disease Attributes
Pathologic Processes processed this record on August 18, 2017