ISO/NP* 21998 Interpreting – Requirements for medical/healthcare interpreting

This first draft and outline is to be commented on and balloted by 13th December 2016 for progress to WD* in 2017 expected publication 2


Medical interpreters, also called healthcare interpreters, facilitate spoken and signed communication, enabling patients who have limited proficiency in the language of service to communicate with healthcare providers. Medical interpreters enable meaningful communication between providers and patients who do not share the same language and/or culture. Medical interpreting is provided in a variety of public and private settings, including healthcare centres, clinics, behavioural health facilities,pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations. It covers all parties involved in facilitating communication in any of the above settings. Minimum international criteria, requirements/guidelines, and recommendations are needed for the provision of medical interpreting services.


This international standard establishes requirements for medical interpreting services/is a guidance document. It establishes and provides the basic principles and practices necessary to ensure accurate interpreting services for patients as well as requesters, and service providers. This International Standard is applicable to all situations requiring medical interpreting where the users of healthcare services need to communicate orally or by signed language. The service categories vary and include all situations that have medical implications (see Annex B). However, it does not supersede national regimes or legislation governing interpreting services in any of the above settings. General provisions on interpreting services are covered in ISO 18841. General provisions for community interpreting services are covered in ISO 13611. The provisions herein meet the requirements specific and unique to medical interpreting.

ATC Note: The New Work Item Proposal in addition to the ability to approve or disapprove the development of this standard requests advice on a preference for the title to refer to medical or health care or both and whether the provisions should be in the form of requirements inviting potential certification or in the form of recommendation of good practice which is not intended to be used for certification purposes.

*New Project – For ballot and comment by mirror committees of national standards bodies e.g. BSI and capable of being voted out on the ballot but such a result is very unusual after a meeting has agreed to put it to the ballot.