Don't Let Rxs for Spanish-Speaking Patients Get Lost in Translation

You play an important role in helping Spanish-speaking patients.

About 50% of prescription labels translated from English to Spanish are incorrect or incomplete. And many of these patients may not speak English well...making communication challenging.

Communication. Be familiar with routine medical Spanish...such as "dolor" for "pain," "gota" for "drop," and "comida" for "food."

Use our chart, Spanish Terms and Phrases, to get translations for common situations...such as asking for date of birth or allergies.

Follow your pharmacy's policy for accessing an interpreter. For example, you may be able to call a hotline for translation services.

Be careful communicating through family members or non-pharmacy staff...this could lead to inaccurate messages or HIPAA violations.

Patient profiles. Double-check patient names are entered correctly. Hyphenated last names are common for Spanish-speaking patients...which could cause wrong-patient errors or billing problems.

For example, Maria Hernandez-Gonzales could be easily mixed up with Maria Hernandez...or Maria Gonzales.

Include Spanish as the primary language in the patient's profile. Most computer systems can print labels and other drug info in Spanish.

Rx labels. Make sure ALL directions have been properly translated...some words could spell trouble if they're misinterpreted.

For instance, "once" means "eleven" in Spanish...and could lead to a patient taking 11 doses of a med instead of just once daily.

And "por la boca" means "by mouth," but "por la poca" means "by the little." Mixing these up could create confusion on how to take the med.

Share our Spanish patient education handouts...to help increase understanding. And get our CE, Embracing Cultural Competence, to personalize care for patients of different backgrounds.

Key References

  • Res Social Adm Pharm 2017;13(1):123-32
  • Am J Pharm Educ 2006;70(2):43
  • Pediatrics 2010;125(5):960-5
Pharmacy Technician's Letter. July 2019, No. 350711



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