OET Reading Ability

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Barriers to effective and equitable healthcare can result from linguistic differences between patients and clinicians. Increasingly, healthcare professionals include migrants whose first language (L1) is not the majority language. Patients who are linguistic minority migrants, a group also increasing in number must similarly use a second language during their healthcare encounters, or rely on the availability and accuracy of an interpreter. Thus growing numbers of patients using a country’s healthcare system do not share an L1 with their practitioner and vice versa. Language discrepancies may result in increased psychological stress and medically significant communication errors for already anxious patients, something to which patients in language-congruent encounters (i.e. shared L1) are less vulnerable. Moreover, it is not just language that can cause barriers to equitable healthcare: inequities inherent in the social dynamic of the patient-practitioner encounter are well documented, and these inequities occur independently of whether L1 is shared. Understanding language in the context of a medical encounter is thus critical for understanding the problems that might result when patients and healthcare practitioners speak a different L1.