Implications of language barrier on the diagnostic yield of computed tomography in pulmonary embolism

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Abstract

Objectives:

To determine if a physician-patient language barrier impacts the diagnostic accuracy of pulmonary embolism (PE) evaluation.

Methods:

A retrospective chart review, conducted between June 2015 and December 2016, of a consecutive sample of diagnostic computed tomography pulmonary angiogram (CTPA) studies performed on adult patients. Positive and negative CTPA scans were further categorized by patient language and the positive diagnostic yield was determined for each language group. A post collection sub-analysis was performed to determine the yield when interpreter services were identified as necessary.

Results:

The yield for English speaking patients was 10.24% (92/898, 95% CI 8.39% to 12.36%), similar to the yield in Spanish speaking patients of 9.40% (25/266, 95% CI 6.31% to 13.37%, P = 0.69). This contrasted with the yield in patients who identified as bilingual, which was significantly lower at 1.41% (1/71, 95% CI 0.07% to 6.75%) compared to both English-(P < 0.02) and Spanish-only speakers (P < 0.03). The yield for non-English speaking patients who requested an interpreter was 7.37% (14/190, 95% CI 4.26% to 11.77%) versus 3.23% (2/62, 95% CI 0.54% to 10.25%, P = 0.25) in those who did not.

Conclusions:

The diagnostic yield in English- and Spanish-only speaking patients was similar, however, the yield in those that self-identified as bilingual was significantly lower. In patient groups in which a language barrier existed and an interpreter was not utilized, there was a trend toward a lower diagnostic yield. This suggests an increased propensity to order diagnostic imaging when potential communication barriers exist.

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