In General, Language, Translation

Why You Should Be Using Professional Interpreters During an IME

Independent Medical Examinations: The Risks of Bringing a Friend-Interpreter vs. Hiring an Accredited Professional Interpreter.

  • Patients’ informed consent to treatment
  • Protect patients’ confidentiality
  • Unbiased dialog

Effective doctor-patient communication is vital for a proper assessment and ensures that the patient’s information is correctly conveyed and informed consent is clearly obtained. For patients who’s first language is not English, effective communication with the doctor could compromise the assessment results.


During the IME process, it is imperative that informed consent is obtained. The claimant must clearly understand that no patient-physician relationship is being established, that the physician will be reviewing medical documentation that has been provided by the referring party and lastly that the physician will be providing their opinion via a written report.

When a patient and a doctor do not share the same language, this creates a disadvantage that affects obtaining informed consent. When an untrained interpreter, like a family member or friend is used, the physician has no way of knowing if the interpretation is being clearly communicated. When Professional Interpreters, also known as In-person Translators, are used, this risk is removed and the physician can be confident that informed consent has been obtained.


Confidentiality is one of the most important aspects of any medical interaction. During an IME the physician will not only discuss the circumstances leading to the need for an IME they will also need to go over the claimant’s previous medical history. The claimant may not understand that this will happen and has now been put in the situation of forced disclosure of information they may have not wanted to be shared with their friends and family. Worse yet, the patient may not want to tell their friend or family member who is interpreting the conditions or symptoms they are experiencing in fear of judgement.

When we remove the friend/family member from this experience and instead use a professional interpreter, we can eliminate this potential situation. As well, professional interpreters are bound to confidentiality by their Code of Ethics.


Open, clear, concise dialogue is essential to the IME process. We must ensure that claimants whose first language is not English understand the physician’s questions in the manner in which they were posed and the claimant’s questions or efforts for clarification are addressed.

When we allow a friend or family member to provide the interpretation service, we cannot be sure that they are not intentionally or inadvertently communicating their own biases, that they aren’t too embarrassed to ask the question posed, or are misunderstanding some essential terminology. Professional Interpreters understand the IME process and eliminate the risks for all involved parties associated with insufficient communication.

Studies have shown that the use of friends and family as interpreters in medical situations is not in the best interests of the doctor, patient or family member for a variety of reasons. Given the limited time involved in an IME and the scope and weight that the report can carry, it is crucial that the best possible consecutive interpretation is provided. Companies like Languages in Motion provide trained Professional Interpreters who are experts in these types of scenarios.

Read another case study: Nurse and Patient Miscommunication through Patient’s Son as Interpreter

*Failure to adequately ensure patients’ informed consent to treatment. Equitable access to quality of care Government reports have indicated that patients who do not speak an official language do not receive the same standard of care in Canada (Tang, 1999).

Start typing and press Enter to search

Tagline Case StudyLISA Video, Over the phone and onsite interpreting