The Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice

The Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice

October 17, 2013 11:45 ET

Doctors Lead Innovative Pilot Project to Improve Care for Patients Who Don't Speak English

Benefits patients in Coquitlam, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody

COQUITLAM, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 17, 2013) - The Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice is launching a pilot project to improve care for patients who don't speak English. The project enables local family doctors to better support those patients' needs by providing free access to an interpreter during office visits. This is the first of its kind in Canada in a fee-for-service setting with family doctors. The project is funded by the Division, a collaborative initiative of the BC Medical Association and the Ministry of Health.

"This pilot is a perfect example of the doctor-driven improvements to primary care that the Divisions of Family Practice initiative was created to support," said Dr. Kathleen Ross, physician lead for the Fraser Northwest Division. "Dr. Patricia Gabriel noticed an increasing number of non-English speaking patients in her practice and the language barrier was impacting her ability to provide optimal care. Others in the region shared her concern, so we launched the project to help overcome this challenge."

The interpreter is available over the phone, via access to the Provincial Language Service, so there is no need for patients to pre-book communications support. Interpretation services are available in more than 150 languages. Currently, no system is in place for using and funding this service in community based, fee for service family physicians' offices.

"Open dialogue is vital to positive patient outcomes," says Dr. Patricia Gabriel. "In many cases, patients with very limited English rely on a family member or friend to explain symptoms, which can be difficult if they involve sexual or mental health. When key information doesn't get passed on or nuances are lost, there's a possibility of misdiagnosis. In an effort to avoid that, doctors might order extra tests that wouldn't be needed if we could just communicate effectively with our patients. I believe interpretation support will benefit both patients and the system as a whole."

Over the next few months - the duration of the pilot project - the service is available free of charge to any family physician who is a member of the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice and operates in a community setting. Once completed, the impacts of the pilot project will be assessed to determine the feasibility and cost of providing interpretation services in family physicians' offices. If successful, there is potential for the service to be continued and expanded.

The Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice is a non-profit society whose membership is comprised of more than 200 family doctors, supporting patients in Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam. It is one of 33 regional Divisions of Family Practice around the province that focus on enhancing local delivery of primary care through member-identified priorities. Divisions of Family Practice was formed and is funded by the General Practice Services Committee, a collaboration between the BC Medical Association and the Ministry of Health. More information can be found at

Contact Information

  • BC Medical Association
    Dana Bales
    Senior Communications Manager

    BC Medical Association
    Sharon Shore
    Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations
    604.638.2832 or 604.306.1866 (pager)