Interpreter services for immigrants in European healthcare systems: a systematic review of access barriers and facilitators

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Language barriers have been identified as a key access barrier to healthcare services for immigrants. The aim of this study was twofold: to investigate immigrants’ and healthcare professionals’ experiences with barriers and facilitators of interpreter services, and to examine the influence of barriers to interpreter services on the quality of care from immigrant and healthcare professional perspectives.
We searched PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Library, Scopus, SocINDEX and PsycINFO, resulting in 1425 studies. A total of 21 original quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods studies published between 1996 and 2021 were assessed as eligible for inclusion.
Identified barriers included: lack of immediately available interpreter services, cost, lack of knowledge about availability, and attitude towards interpreter services. Facilitators included: a high number of interpreters in the requested language, awareness among healthcare professionals and patients of the patient’s rights to interpreters, and a positive attitude towards use of interpreter services. Regarding quality of care, language barriers created safety risks for the patients, made patients feel unsafe, or delayed patient contact with the healthcare system.
Immigrant patients and healthcare professionals experience barriers in using interpreter services due to restrictive policies regarding user fees and limitations to entitlement to interpreters, a limited number of qualified interpreters and lack of knowledge. Medical encounters with unaddressed language barriers can put patients at risk and reduce quality of care for immigrants, which calls for strengthening formal and informal access to interpreters.
Original languageEnglish
Book seriesScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024

ID: 368581836