When it comes to emergencies, a language barrier could be a matter of life or death. In the medical industry, certified interpreters are a critical asset that helps provide crucial and accurate interpretations to both the medical staff and the patient. The healthcare industry takes great strides to ensure language access to all non-English or limited English speaking patients. Spectrum Health Hospital Group, located in West Michigan, is a non-profit healthcare organization that’s made progressive moves with technological advancements by incorporating video remote interpreting mobile units (or VRI) in their area hospitals.
VRI utilizes devices like television and computer monitors or tablets to provide limited or non-English speaking patients with interpreters, who are located off-site. Using a webcam or video, the interpreter can facilitate communication with both the doctor or medical staff and patients remotely. Since patients are receiving information pertaining to their health, it’s important that what’s said during exams, appointments, and consultations are understood, and that the patients also have an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns.
Edna Quarty, Language Services Department manager at Spectrum Health, shares her experiences with the interpreters on staff, as well as why VRI interpreters work so well in Spectrum Health hospitals.
Telelanguage: Please tell us a bit about your role as manager of Spectrum Health’s Language Service Department.
Edna Quarty: I started this position about 8 months ago. My main role within the organization as manager of this department is the assurance of providing quality interpretation (in-person, over-the-phone, and video remote interpreting) and translation services to our patient populations that are Limited English Proficient and Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing. (All of our interpreters are nationally certified interpreters). We’re also accountable for educating our providers and staff members on our services and how to make them accessible to our patients. Spectrum Health’s Language Services’ department is made up of 41 staff members including our staff interpreters. There is never a dull moment around our office!
Telelanguage: At which point did you realize that Spectrum Health could benefit from mobile interpreting unit/VRI technology?
Edna Quarty: Having worked as a Spanish interpreter myself, I understand that there will always be special circumstances such as sensitive topics or some patients’ special needs that would always benefit best from in-person interpreters. We’re not moving completely away to only offering Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services. In fact, that is one of the reasons why we prefer VRI services over telephone interpreting because it provides a more personal experience for the patient and the provider. And it’s even more personal when our own staff interpreters are the ones connecting and providing these services. It’s great when our clinics can dial-in and see the familiar faces that used to go to their offices in-person; it really adds value to the patient experience as well.
Telelanguage: About how many patients require an interpreter per month? Has the volume of requests for interpreters increased with the availability of the mobile interpreting units?
Edna Quarty: Our average on a monthly basis for in-person requests is about 3000. As far as video/phone calls that our interpreters help facilitate we’re averaging about 1500. We have indeed noticed an increase in our volumes not only because of the growth of our Video/Phone interpreting program but also because the organization has been growing as a whole. Having more of our interpreters taking video and phone calls has also increased the efficiency in how we provide our services; we’re able to reach more of our patients at the regional hospitals and at other sites non-central locations within the city of Grand Rapids.
While friends and family members may not know proper medical terminology (or feel comfortable delivering private information), interpreters increase patient safety by providing accurate information from the doctor or healthcare provider. Health Care providers like Spectrum Health Hospital Group make sure that every voice is heard by providing certified interpreters either on staff, via VRI, or telephonically.
If you’re in the need of an interpreter, whether face to face or telephonically, Telelanguage provides 4,000+ interpreters ready to speak in over 300 languages. We’re available around the clock 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Connecting to an interpreter in just seconds enables quick and quality interpretations allowing you to communicate with confidence in emergency situations.
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