Video Interpretation Services Cut Cost, Speed Service to Patients
Several hospitals have begun to implement video language-interpretation services in order to "communicate quickly, accurately and around the clock" with patients who do not speak English or those who use sign language, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Health Research & Educational Trust, about 80% of U.S. hospitals say they frequently treat patients with limited English proficiency. Most hire interpreters and bilingual staff members or use telephone-based services.
Interpreters can cost $100 dollars an hour and might remain at the hospital all day only to be used for just a few minutes of conversation, according to the Journal. By comparison, video interpretation services cost about $2 to $3 per minute and can be transported throughout the hospital on a mobile unit with a TV screen and camera.
Charles Vialotti, director of radiation oncology at New Jersey-based Holy Name Hospital, said, "You get the verbal exchange, but coupled with that a very strong sense of the patient's understanding by looking at body language and facial expression, which is absent with just an audio connection."
Jonathon Hirsch, director of guest services at Holy Name, said that video interpretation has helped the hospital treat deaf patients. "We had a tremendous amount of problems getting sign language interpreters here," he said.
Holy Name developed its video-interpreter service with California-based Language Line Services, which provides interpreter services for at least a dozen hospitals. The company offers audio of 170 languages with seven languages available on-camera.
Las Vegas-based Language Access Network also provides customer-tailored systems in addition to audio interpretation of 150 languages and video interpretation of about a dozen languages. LAN introduced its first pilot of the video system 18 months ago at Ohio State University Medical Center, where the system is now used nearly every day.
Richard Potts, director of customer service at LAN, said, "As soon as somebody walks in the door, we can have an interpreter available for them. The staff seems to like it, and we're getting good responses from the patients" (Wisenberg Brin, Wall Street Journal, 11/2).