Rite Aid customers whose English speaking skills are limited can now utilize telephone interpreters to consult with pharmacists in more than 175 languages.

Rite Aid, pharmacists, pharmacy translations, telephone interpreters, Language Line Services, Robert Thompson, Louis Provenzano, drug stores, prescription, drug chain, Richard Monks, Nisha Agarwal, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

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Rite Aid offers pharmacy translations via phone

June 8th, 2009

NEW YORK – Rite Aid customers whose English speaking skills are limited can now utilize telephone interpreters to consult with pharmacists in more than 175 languages.

The free service lets pharmacists, patients and an interpreter from Language Line Services, a language services provider, have a three-way phone conversation. Rolled out on a trial basis in select New York City drug stores in 2007, the service was expanded to all 225 Rite Aid units in the city’s five boroughs in January and to Rite Aid’s 4,800-plus stores nationwide last month.

“We are very pleased to offer this new option to our pharmacy customers,” says senior vice president of pharmacy operations Robert Thompson. “We have a very diverse customer base, and this service will certainly help our limited-English speaking customers clearly understand the information they receive from our pharmacies.”

Translating the intricacies of prescription instructions, those involved with the service say, provides much-needed help to thousands of pharmacy patients for whom English is a second language. Louis Provenzano, Language Line Services’ president and chief operating officer, notes that 174 languages are spoken in the New York metropolitan area and nationwide more than 24 million people over age 5 require language support.

Research also has shown that most people with limited English speaking skills prefer to communicate in their native language.

“As the nation’s population of limited-English speakers grows, providing interpretation services is the best way to ensure these patients understand their benefits and, more important, are taking medications safely and accurately,” Provenzano says.

Rite Aid executives stress that the addition of interpretation services enhances the systems that the drug chain already provides non-English-speaking customers who need help with their prescription information.

Rite Aid can print prescription labels in 11 languages, and the combination of that service with on-demand phone interpretations marks the first time that a pharmacy chain has offered an integrated national network for its non-English-speaking patients, the company says.

Rite Aid’s incorporation of translation services in New York grew out of criticism from immigrant advocate groups that those who were not native English speakers were running into language barriers in pharmacies. “Our clients were having trouble getting their medications,” says Nisha Agarwal, director for health justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

The groups argued that under New York state law pharmacists are personally required to provide patients spoken and written information about the dosage, purpose and side effects of prescriptions. Last year, the New York attorney general’s office ordered pharmacies in the state to provide those who are not native English speakers with spoken and written instructions.

Other drug chains in New York — including Duane Reade Inc., Food Emporium, Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp. — also will begin employing prescription direction translations via phone in their pharmacies.