Pharmacists' communication with Spanish-speaking patients: A review of the literature to establish an agenda for future research

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Spanish-speaking people represent more than 12% of the total population in the United States and are poised to become the largest minority group in the United States by 2015. Although researchers have studied pharmacist-patient communication for approximately 30 years, little emphasis has been placed on the interactions between pharmacists and Spanish-speaking patients.


The objectives of this review are (1) to describe empirical studies on Spanish-speaking patient/pharmacist communication examined relative to patient factors, pharmacist factors, and environmental factors that may influence Spanish-speaking patient/pharmacist communication and (2) to integrate medical and nursing literature to generate a research agenda for future study in this area.


We compiled articles from a systematic review of (1) CINAHL, International Pharmacy Abstracts, PubMed, and Web of Knowledge databases using “Hispanic limited English proficiency,” “Latino limited English proficiency,” “language-assistance services,” “Spanish-speaking patients,” “Latino patients,” “Spanish-speaking health literacy,” “pharmacy health literacy,” “patient-provider communication,” “pharmacy language barriers,” and (2) bibliographies of selected articles.


This search generated 1174 articles, 7 of which met the inclusion criteria. We categorized the results into 4 topic areas: “Spanish-speaking patient literacy,” “pharmacists knowledge of/proficiency in the Spanish language,” “pharmacy resources to overcome language barriers,” and “pharmacists' attitudes toward communicating with Spanish-speaking patients.”


These studies provide a macroscopic look at the linguistic services offered in pharmacies, gaps in services, and their subsequent impact on pharmacists and patients. Future research should investigate Spanish-speaking patients' literacy issues, pharmacy staff language skills, factors that influence pharmacists' counseling, and language-assistance programs for pharmacists and patients. Furthermore, these studies need to be conducted in large Hispanic/Latino populated areas where positive service models are likely to be present. Addressing these issues will provide pharmacists and pharmacies with information to overcome language barriers and provide Spanish-speaking patients with quality care.

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