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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | International Business | 2015
Thesis number: 13941
Overcoming language barriers in health care services in the medical tourism context: Health care companies' perspective
Author: Röysky, Maiju
Title: Overcoming language barriers in health care services in the medical tourism context: Health care companies' perspective
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: International Business
Index terms: kansainväliset yhtiöt; international companies; terveydenhuolto; health services; palvelut; service; matkailu; tourism; terveys; health; kielet; languages; viestintä; communication; Suomi; Finland; Venäjä; Russia
Pages: 125
Full text:
» hse_ethesis_13941.pdf pdf  size:2 MB (1482234)
Key terms: health care services; medical tourism; language barriers; native language use; service encounters; service language; health care companies in Finland; Russian patients
The primary objective of this study was to understand the role of language in health care services. This study aimed at investigating 1) how language barriers affect health care encounters and how health care companies overcome language barriers in medical encounters and 2) the role of native language in health care services and when native language use is particularly important. The context of this study was medical tourism from Russia to Finland, and the secondary purpose of this study was also to comprehend the global phenomenon of medical tourism. The research problem was studied from Finnish health care companies' perspective.

This study was conducted as a qualitative multiple case study with four case companies: Coxa Hospital for Joint Replacement, Docrates, Hospital Neo and Orton. Case companies were selected among the participants of FinlandCare program. For the study, three different groups working in the Finnish medical tourism sector were interviewed: two industry experts, seven health care professionals and five directors/managers from the case companies. Altogether 13 semi-structured interviews were made for this study and transcriptions of the interviews formed the primary empirical data. Within-case analysis and cross-case analysis were used as data analysis methods in this study.

The findings of this study indicate that language barriers are in many ways problematic in health care services and they may have various negative impacts on a patient. However, in order to be able to communicate and interact in health care encounters with Russian patients, the case companies demonstrated various interventions for overcoming language barriers in health care, ranging from having Russian-speaking personnel (language concordance) and using professional and non-professional interpreters to different creative solutions like written translations and internal grammar books. This study concludes - in line with previous studies mainly from patients' perspective - that patient's native language has an important role in health care services. Based on the findings of this study, native language use is particularly important in the beginning and end of the health care service process, as particularly in those phases patient and health care personnel must be able to communicate effectively. Moreover, language has also an important role in medical tourism and the findings of this study support the previous findings that service language can even affect patient's choice of the service provider.
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