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Interpretation Services

Interpretation service keeps practice, patients connected
Tin cans in a circle connected by string with a variety of foreign flags on the cans

Catastrophic mistakes can occur when doctors and patients misunderstand each other’s language. Miscommunications of any sort, in any medical field, also can be costly. One high profile example resulted in a $71 million malpractice lawsuit due to the misinterpretation of the Spanish word “intoxicado.”

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act protects people from discrimination in health care and calls for medical practices to provide interpretation and translation services for their non-English speaking patients. The rule, which extends to dental practices, requires covered practices to post information telling patients with limited English proficiency about their right to receive communication assistance.

Dr. Margaret McGrath founded Kent Island Pediatric Dentistry in Stevensville, Maryland, eight years ago. The practice has nine operatories, three dentists and four hygienists. The dentists and staff at Kent Island Pediatric Dentistry recognize the use of medical interpretation services as not just a legal requirement, but also good business. The office uses CyraCom language services — an ADA Member Advantage-endorsed service — “which improves office efficiency and patient care,” according to office manager Debbie McLanigan.

Ms. McLanigan said the office has used CyraCom for more than a year, after previously using another language service provider. “Dr. McGrath actually found the service through the ADA, and I helped us sign up and get registered with it,” Ms. McLanigan said. “We weren’t very happy with the translation line we were using before. We’ve been happy with CyraCom since we switched.”

CyraCom offered superior interpreters, Ms. McLanigan said. “The communication between us and the interpretation service was better as well.”

Kent Island Pediatric Dentistry most often encounters nonnative English speakers who primarily speak Spanish, but they encounter other languages, too. “There have been a few times when it’s been Mandarin Chinese,” McLanigan said. “But, for the most part, it’s Spanish-speaking families. Where we’re located, we have a lot of bilingual families, and, for us, it was hard to find a bilingual dental assistant. We have a doctor who speaks Spanish, but she’s only here with us part time. So, we sought out the translation line to better accommodate our patients.”

Because their patients are children, the practice uses CyraCom to communicate with parents and guardians. Front-desk personnel use CyraCom’s services to set up and confirm patient appointments. Dental assistants also use the services when explaining postoperative care.

CyraCom offers a number of avenues to access its interpretation service, including phones, laptops, and a smart device app. Because connection is instantaneous, the service is only a fraction of the cost of hiring an in person interpreter, who often has time minimums and travel expenses that practices are expected to reimburse.

“If the patients are here in the office, we use a speakerphone so that we can communicate,” Ms. McLanigan said. “If we need to call out, they offer a service where they’ll actually call out to the family for us.”

Ms. McLanigan said that the practice anticipates using translation and interpretation services even more in the future. “One hundred percent, I think it’s something we’ll always need,” she said. “We are a very busy practice, so I think there will always be a need for us to have language services.”

For more information about CyraCom visit To learn more about other ADA Member Advantage endorsed companies, visit

Ms. Williams is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor who specializes in practice and research news for dental and medical professionals. She can be reached at