Emergency Medical Services Rely on VRI to Improve Language Access

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

The number of limited English proficient (LEP) patients living in the United States today has increased by more than 140 percent throughout the past 30 years. That means effective communication is paramount to ensuring healthcare providers are delivering the safest and best care possible.

Eighty percent of U.S. hospitals cite that they frequently encounter LEP patients, and 43 percent of these facilities are seeing LEP patients on a daily basis. Typically, healthcare facilities have the resources to support language access requests, but what happens when patients are unable to communicate on the way to the hospital or during an emergency?

Many LEP patients are transported by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) teams in emergency vehicles or helicopters to healthcare facilities to receive care, but these vehicles may not always be equipped with access to interpreters.  

Language access barriers and poor patient-provider communication can result in a myriad of healthcare disparities and challenges, including delays to treatment and consent, increased medication errors, healthcare associated infections and adverse events.

Throughout an EMS encounter, providers and medics are typically on the phone with physicians discussing a patient’s care plan and are checking in with patients about pain levels. However, without access to interpretation services, clinicians may not be able to effectively communicate with patients, which could delay their care and put patients at risk.  

Research has shown that the use of a professional interpreter is associated with improved clinical care, rather than using ad hoc interpreters such as family members or bilingual staff. To improve communication between clinicians and their LEP, Deaf and hard of hearing patients during emergencies, many EMS providers are partnering with high performing, technology-enabled, healthcare interpreting solutions. We recommend considering the following five elements when adopting a language access program for EMS:   

1) Medically Qualified Interpreters – Experienced, credentialed or medically qualified interpreters are central to delivering effective communication. All interpreters should be certified by applicable state or national interpreting certification organizations or on a path to certification.

2) Reliable and Appropriate Equipment - Video remote interpreting (VRI) devices should be available on demand with app capability on any Tablet, Smartphone, Desktop, or Laptop and specifically designed to support the flexibility that EMS teams require.  

3) Client and Technical Support - Technology-enabled language access solutions require strategic implementation support/expertise and on-demand technical support to ensure service availability. The client services team should be experienced with launching and optimizing language services solutions. The Help Desk should also be available 24/7/365 to ensure uninterrupted access to interpretive services.

4) Service Reliability and Ease of Use - The language access application must be available anytime and intuitive enough to increase compliance and patient safety. VRI applications should be specifically designed to support an EMS workflow, providing access to interpretive services in seconds with a single touch. 

5) 100 percent Healthcare Focused – Federal regulations, including Section 1557 of the ACA, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age by any health program or activity and requires providers who receive federal funding to offer language access options for LEP and Deaf patients. Language service providers should deliver timely, medical communication focused exclusively on the healthcare industry to make a direct impact on patient outcomes.

How Stratus Video Can Help

Stratus Video is the largest and fastest growing video remote interpreting company in the world with over 1,500 hospitals and thousands of clinics using its solutions. The company offers five propriety products that provide video remote interpretation, over the phone interpretation, onsite interpretation, telehealth interoperability and translation. Learn more about how Stratus Video can improve communication and increase patient outcomes within your EMS department: www.stratusvideo.com

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