Quality and Safety 

Understanding and being understood – effective communication is key to ensuring quality and safety of health care services. 

People who have access to services in their mother tongue will achieve better health advice and will be able to make more informed decisions in this regard. Therefore, any measure that promotes communication with citizens in their own language is a positive step. Leona Aglukkaq - Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, 5 October 2009. 

In the Journal of General Internal Medicine, November 2007, Volume 22, Supplement 2, pp 360-361, the following article describes the risks associated with language and cultural barriers when delivering health care services and the importance of integrating best practices to help overcome these barriers.  Language Differences as a Barrier to Quality and Safety in Health Care: The Joint Commission Perspective. 

As part of the Consortium national de formation en santé’s Active Offer Toolkit, there is a section on Language and Health that describes the following: 

  • the potential impact of social determinants as a whole, but more specifically, the impact of language on the health of individuals, in particular on the Francophones living in minority communities;
  • elements that are essential to quality services;
  • the link between health care service delivery in the patient’s preferred official and the security of the patient;
  • the types of interpreters as well as the limits and advantages of each.

The OHA, through the work of their FLS Committee, has also developed a FLS Tool Kit. As part of this tool kit, the OHA describes how language is important to health service provision: 

A patient’s language and culture are the foundational elements of a person’s identity. As health service providers, we are committed to ensuring the best care possible to patients in a safe and therapeutic environment. This vision can be guided by an understanding of the cultural profile and linguistic needs of patients and what we can do to best help them recover.  For example, in the mental health sector, language becomes critical when a patient is asked what they are feeling or what symptoms they are experiencing before healthcare professionals can help them. If not, many important nuances can be lost in translation.