Millions of elderly immigrants, mainly Spanish speakers cannot participate in clinical trials because they cannot speak English. The reason is that clinicians and researchers do not believe that using interpreters can properly accomplish the neuropsych testing, according to a study published in Clinical Neuropsychology.
Dr. Benjamin Sommers, who studies health policy for vulnerable populations at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says the problem goes beyond clinical trials and affects diagnosing as well. He recently had trouble arranging for neuropsychological testing to diagnose a Spanish-speaking patient who did not speak English fluently. Under-representation of ethnic minorities in neuropsychology is a realistic concern that has garnered increased attention over the past few years. The problem is one that is difficult to answer. Neuropsychologists who work with interpreters may be erroneously interpreting an individual’s performance as “normal” (false negative) or impaired (false positive) for some neuropsychological tests because of the language barriers and there aren’t enough Spanish speaking neuropsychologists to run the tests. Scientists are trying to find new ways of administering the tests which will allow for competent results with interpreters.