Fulbright research aims to improve ethnic medical outcomes

04 Feb, 2014

Introducing patient navigators (who are trained medical interpreters) to New Zealand hospitals could help reduce adverse outcomes for ethnic communities according to a 2014 Fulbright Scholar from AUT University.

Ineke Crezee, an internationally regarded medical interpreting expert and senior lecturer in the School of Language and Culture at AUT University, will use her 2014 Fulbright Scholar Award to fund a research trip to the United States later this year.  There she will explore the highly successful patient navigator system at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  As a comparison she will also study outcomes for ethnic communities at three Auckland DHBs.

Crezee’s ultimate goal is to see a patient navigation system in place in New Zealand, where she expects it would particularly benefit patients from the Pasifika, Chinese and Indian communities.

“Like the United States, New Zealand is a recipient society for migrants and refugees from diverse backgrounds, who are known to experience more adverse medical outcomes. It makes sense to learn from the United States which is at the forefront of patient navigator systems.

“The navigator, a trained medical interpreter, acts like a bridge between the culture and process of the hospital and the culture and community of the patient.

“In New Zealand my plan is to engage with ethnic communities and work in partnership with them on this project.  I want to hear of their healthcare experiences and understand what sort of challenges they face in the hospital setting.  By working with a diverse range of communities and individuals, and hearing what would make a difference for them, I hope I can help to  improve their medical outcomes in the future.”

In Seattle the patient navigation system has already shown success, improving attendance at follow-up appointments and reducing re-admissions, but in New Zealand only the Waitemata DHB has so far trialled the use of navigators.

Another subject Crezee will explore in the United States is the use of video remote interpreting in medical settings, an approach also under consideration in New Zealand.

As a trained nurse and lecturer in healthcare interpreting, Crezee is passionate about improving the healthcare experiences of ethnic communities.  Last year she published Introduction to Healthcare for Interpreters and Translators, which updates and internationalises the hugely popular version she self-published in 1998.

“The aim is to raise the standard of healthcare interpreting and translating, in turn creating better healthcare outcomes for the patients who rely on those services.  As New Zealand becomes increasingly multicultural the role of interpreters and translators in key services like healthcare will only become more significant,” says Crezee, who has also found a ready audience for the book internationally.

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