Why You Shouldn’t Use Google Translate For Medical Appointments

While Google Translate is known for being easy to use and very user-friendly, the simplest solution might not be the best.

Effective communication is the foundation for medical appointments. Patients having a full, comprehensive understanding of what is being said is crucial in the healthcare setting. One miscommunication can lead to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, dissatisfaction, and worst of all: a fatality.

To avoid these miscommunications, the use of technology for language translation (such as using Google Translate for medical appointments) has not only been introduced, but has also skyrocketed in recent years. Whether it is through language translation apps, online platforms, or real-time translation services, technology has been helpful in numerous ways. 

In particular, Google Translate has been around since 2006. It is known for being easy to use and very user-friendly. However, the simplest solution might not be the best, with associated limitations, risks, and even legal considerations. Let’s discuss why you shouldn’t use Google Translate for medical appointments.

The Limitations of Google Translate for Medical Appointments

Google Translate was originally released as a statistical machine translation service. Text had to be inputted into English first before it could be translated into other languages. However, Google Translate has come a long way since then, with the ability to translate full sentences. Despite these advancements, Google Translate has many limitations when it comes to the medical field.

Google Translate lacks accuracy and precision with medical terminology, which is a huge disadvantage when it comes to understanding exactly what is being said by a healthcare provider or patient. Google Translate also does not have the ability to interpret context or nuances that are often present in language. As a result, it may not always capture the intended meaning and opens up vast potential for misinterpretation and misunderstanding of important information–which can lead to great repercussions.

Risks of Misinterpretation with Google Translate for Medical Appointments

Misinterpretation in medical communication can have serious consequences that lead to significant harm to the patient. It only takes one small communicative mistake to lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment. And that one small misinterpretation can send a patient down a critically incorrect path: Misdiagnosis of a patient leads to mistreatment, including ineffective treatment, which results in escalated health issues, recurrences, and hospital readmissions. That mistreatment, along with leading to patient dissatisfaction and lower patient satisfaction scores, can also lead to something worse: a fatality. As for the provider, these poor patient outcomes can also lead to legal considerations.

Patient Safety and Legal Considerations

Fifty-five percent of malpractice suits result from miscommunication. Providing interpreting services for patients is a legal matter. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), healthcare providers must provide translation and interpretation services to their patients and accompanying family members. Failure to do so could result in fines, medical malpractice suits, and loss of federal funding. However, it’s become clear that Google Translate is not the way to fill that void.

According to a new study by researchers from the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Google Translate still isn’t reliable enough to use for medical instructions for people who don’t speak English. With discrepancies across the board, ranging from 55% to 90% accuracy, it’s too risky to use Google Translate for medical appointments or anywhere in the medical field.

Despite these barriers, there is a solution: medical interpreters.

The Role of Medical Interpreters

The expertise of medical interpreters in healthcare ensures accurate and reliable communication during medical appointments between healthcare providers and patients. They pick up on cultural nuances that Google Translate simply cannot, and are able to effectively communicate that information to the provider and patient to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the conversation. 

Medical interpreters go beyond mere translation and interpretation. They actively work to build trust and establish a strong rapport between the patient and provider so that patients can fully comprehend the risks and benefits associated with their healthcare, and so that providers have a clear understanding of the symptoms and concerns expressed by the patient. This collaborative approach between interpreters, patients, and providers enhances the overall quality of healthcare delivery and fosters effective communication, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes.

Overcoming Language Barriers in Healthcare

Every patient deserves language access. With medical interpreters, every patient can be understood by their providers, regardless of which language they speak. Overcoming language barriers is a right, and using a medical interpreter instead of Google Translate will ensure accurate and clear communication and help maintain respect for cultural differences, nuances, and beliefs between the patient and the provider. 

By relying on medical interpreters rather than automated translation tools like Google Translate, healthcare providers can establish a more meaningful connection with their patients, leading to improved patient satisfaction and overall quality of care.


Effective communication is essential in medical appointments for providers and patients to be able to fully understand one another. While certain technology has made advancements in language translation, relying on Google Translate for language translation is not recommended. Google Translate still has many limitations, especially when it comes to the medical field, lacking accuracy and precision with medical terminology. Misinterpretation through Google Translate can have serious consequences that lead to significant harm to the patient: It only takes one small communicative mistake to lead to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and a poor patient outcome.

However, these poor healthcare outcomes can be completely preventable. To ensure patient safety and quality care, it is essential to utilize the expertise of medical interpreters, who can bridge language barriers and facilitate clear communication between healthcare providers and patients. By prioritizing the use of qualified interpreters, healthcare providers can improve patient outcomes, enhance patient experiences, and deliver culturally sensitive care.

Contact Jeenie today to learn more about our language access services and how we can assist your organization in overcoming language barriers and creating an inclusive healthcare environment.

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