Communication in Health Care: Impact of Language and Accent on Health Care Safety, Quality, and Patient Experience

Samer Ellahham, MD


Am J Med Qual. 2021 Sep-Oct 01;36(5):355-364

First published: September 1, 2021  DOI: 10.1097/01.JMQ.0000735476.37189.90


Permanent or temporary migration results in communication issues related to language barriers. The migrant’s mother tongue is often different from that of the host country. Even when the same language is spoken, communication barriers arise because of differences in accent. These communication barriers have a significant negative impact on migrants accessing health care and their ability to understand instructions and seek follow-up care. A multidisciplinary team often has professionals from various countries. These migrant health care professionals find it difficult to communicate with patients of the host country and with their colleagues. Communication barriers, therefore, result in miscommunication or no communication between health care professionals and between health care professionals and patients. This increases the risk of medical errors and impacts quality of care and patient safety. This review looks at the impact of communication barriers in health care and endeavors to find effective solutions.

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