In an increasingly multilingual world, hospitals and healthcare providers must be able to communicate across a variety of different languages. Improved communications technology is making the world a little bit smaller for hospitals, translators, and their patients in their quest to serve limited English proficiency (LEP) patients.
Kevin Obarski, VP of sales at TransPerfect, a firm that provides localization and communications services, says there are a few ways a hospital can respond to diverse language needs. Having an onsite translator or using a phone-based service are currently the most common, but they are not without their drawbacks. If an onsite translator has to be called in, things can get expensive, and as Obarski notes, waiting for one to arrive "doesn't work so well in an emergency case."
Over-the-phone interpretations are cheaper and more rapid, but can still fall short. "Quality of care is not as good because you can't read between the lines," Obarski says. "You can't see any verbal cues." The third option, which has been taking hold over the last few months, is internet-based video conferencing for translation services.
Obarski outlines three of the top reasons healthcare providers should adopt remote video translation services.
1. Increased efficiency in providing care to LEP patients. "As electronic records continue to develop, providers can use their mobile device to see the records of the person they're about to see and know that they're LEP," says Obarski. "They can push a button and automatically get connected" to a video conferencing service. Instead of waiting for a translator to arrive, which can be time consuming, or trying to hunt down a phone and dial in to a service, internet-based language services can be near instantaneous. Older models of translation services were more cumbersome and time consuming. Internet based translation "eliminates all that with one touch, allowing [physicians] to see more patients."
2. Patients feel like they're receiving better care. "It's just like being in the room with someone," Obarski says. "You're able to dig a little deeper and make sure the person is getting the care they need." Obarski notes that with more and more care being routed to specialists, it is important for vital pieces of patient information to not fall through the cracks. With an EHR, "My dermatologist will be able to see what my cardiologist has done and make sure that no conflicting medications are being administered," Obarski says. In healthcare you "rely on what the patient tells you," so the better the information a provider can get with quality translation, the better care they can provide.
3. Lower costs. Having a translator on hand can be as affordable as working with a certified member of staff, or as costly as flying someone in from another state. Utilizing internet-based translation "makes it much easier for organizations to meet their requirements," says Obarski. Most hospitals do not have translators on staff, and law requires them to provide translation services for LEP patients. This means that they have to pay for a freelance certified translator to come to the hospital to translate for the patient. Obarski says that it's not worth a translator's time to drive to a hospital and translate for a short period of time, and that they often bill by the hour. With the newer video conferencing systems, "If you can connect to a browser and you have a camera and a mic, you can connect to the service and [be speaking to a translator] in 30 seconds." Says Obarski: "It lowers the cost; you only pay for the minutes you use."