Technology Provides Wider, Faster Access to Medical Interpreters
By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President
As the United States population becomes more diverse, so too do the language needs of patients in today’s hospitals. Healthcare providers must ensure meaningful access to healthcare information for all patients. This means that a qualified medical interpreter must be present for all patient-provider interactions when patients are Deaf, hard of hearing or limited English proficient, and translation must be provided for all vital documents, including informed consent forms.
While hospitals strive to provide the required language services, many run into obstacles that hinder complete access, such as a
- shortage of interpreters,
- lack of resources,
- sudden shifts in patient populations or
- scheduling difficulties.
Despite these challenges, federal regulations surrounding language access continue to tighten, impacting federal reimbursement and hospital financial stability. Language access is evaluated by the Joint Commission as a fundamental part of patient-provider communication and a major factor in patient safety and overall quality of care.
Hospitals are turning to healthcare technology to help fill the gap. Mobile apps enable direct connections to qualified medical interpreters onsite, over phone and video along with interpreter scheduling and management features for onsite staff and contract interpreters. Rural locations that have very limited access to interpreters in the surrounding area can now reach interpreters in hundreds of languages with just a few presses of a button. By accessing interpreters remotely, hospitals can eliminate a “shortage of interpreters” from their list of challenges when it comes to language access. Even facilities with limited resources can access interpreters remotely with ease, as the process requires minimal equipment. Users simply need a reliable internet connection and a computer or mobile device.
Sudden shifts in patient populations are also more manageable thanks to the greater array of available languages. Hospitals are encouraged to provide onsite interpreting as an option for their most frequently encountered languages. By being able to connect with interpreters over video and phone, hospitals can also ensure access for patients speaking less common languages, such as Zulu or Quechua.
Mobile apps also simplify the task of scheduling and managing onsite staff and contract interpreters. Stratus InPerson connects healthcare providers with qualified medical interpreters in the local area with the desired experience and language pair. Once an interpreter accepts the job, the provider can track his or her progress to the facility via geolocation, similar to the way you can see a driver’s location as they make their way to you in Uber or Lyft. The app also provides robust reporting of interpretation sessions which are vital for identifying patient populations and optimizing existing services.