Community Interpreting

When direct communication is difficult, professional community interpreters can step in to help healthcare professionals and foreign language-speaking patients understand each other. The FOPH supports this key service for the healthcare sector.

When it comes to health, understanding and being understood is crucial. When attending consultations, foreign language speakers therefore often require community interpreting (by phone or via face-to-face interpreters who accompany them in person). Professional community interpreters translate what is being said in both directions and convey the message accurately and in full. They respect patient confidentiality and perform their role in an impartial manner.

Information regarding financial aspects:
Financing intercultural interpreting  

The FOPH promotes community interpreting mainly through:

Competence centre for community interpreting
Knowledge base on interpreting

Communication problems in healthcare

To promote the skills of healthcare professionals in dealing with foreign language-speaking patients, the FOPH provides various tools and visual aids. Surveys show that more than half of healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, administrative staff and pharmacists) often face language barriers.

There are currently some 200,000 people living in Switzerland who do not speak one of the national languages or English. There are also a significant number of foreign language speakers who can master an everyday conversation but who require linguistic support for complicated explanations relating to health problems. Comprehension problems can otherwise impede medical care, jeopardise patient safety or even make therapeutic success impossible. In short, they can result in excessive, insufficient or inappropriate treatment and unnecessary costs.

Last modification 08.02.2021

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Healthcare and Related Professions Division
Health Equity Section
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Bern

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