Leveraging Technology to Better Access Onsite Interpreters

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

There are three modes of interpretation delivery that are currently used within healthcare: onsite interpreting, video remote interpreting (VRI) and over the phone interpreting (OPI). Hospitals and health systems develop interpretation delivery models with guidelines on when to use each mode for their non-English speaking patients. Varying factors include the size of the hospital, the number of the limited English proficient (LEP) people it serves, the total resources available, the frequency with which those languages are encountered and the anticipated length of the interpretation session.

Both VRI and OPI interpreters can be accessed instantaneously. Onsite interpreters for the most commonly requested languages are typically staffed and available for onsite needs. When multiple requests for onsite interpreters are required simultaneously and/or languages of lesser diffusion are requested, ensuring access to onsite interpreters becomes more challenging. With language diversity on the rise, hospital interpreter managers are leveraging technology to help balance the increasingly difficult task of scheduling onsite interpreters.

Similar to the apps that everyone uses to request transportation, such as Uber and Lyft, medical professionals can request language and ASL interpreters via a desktop and/or mobile app. Requests are routed directly to the smartphones of local qualified medical interpreters who can review session details within the app. Workflows can be customized to route interpreting requests to staff interpreters first. If staff interpreters are at capacity, or if interpretation is needed in a language of lesser diffusion, the organization can then route requests to locally contracted interpreters, who have been thoroughly vetted, ensuring that all interpreters are trained, medically qualified professionals.

Say there is a Spanish-speaking patient arriving at the hospital for a post-surgical follow-up appointment. A dispatcher logs in to the requester portal of the application, selects the date and time, length of the appointment, and location at which it will take place. Once that is set, the dispatcher can select from different pools of interpreters. Spanish is one of the languages that the hospital staffs, so the provider may route this request to employed interpreters first. Once the request goes out, the available interpreters receive notification on their smartphones. The first to accept the appointment is locked into the schedule, and the appointment information is automatically added to their digital calendar. The application reminds the interpreter of the upcoming engagement as it approaches. Once the interpretation session begins, the interpreter “checks in” to the application, thus accurately tracking their time spent in session. Each step that is taken by the interpreter, is tracked and visible to the requester, including the location of the interpreter as they make their way to the facility.

With the LEP patient population rising, tech tools are quickly proving to be indispensable. In just the past year, hospitals have seen interpreter engagement rise significantly with the use of our mobile geolocation app Stratus InPerson. Healthcare facilities attribute this unprecedented increase in staff engagement to reduced travel times between interpreter engagements and more transparent scheduling. The need has always been present, the application simply helps organize and allocate resources in a way that makes medical interpreter teams more effective. Watch this video to see firsthand how technology can be leveraged to better treat limited English proficiency patients.

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