Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals

Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals | Telelanguage

Healthcare language services - certified medical interpretersUnderstanding the best practices for using telephonic interpreters in hospitals helps facilitate meaningful communication between health care providers and Limited-English Proficient (LEP) patients.  There are a few simple things you can do in any over-the-phone interpreting session to make your time with a professional interpreter effective and empowering for yourself and for your LEP patients. First, we’ll look at the importance of certified medical interpreters, then we’ll dive into best practices for using telephonic interpreters in hospitals, as well as what settings may be appropriate for telephonic interpreting in your facility.

When using an interpreter in any health care setting, always make sure they are a certified medical interpreter. Why is the use of certified medical interpreters in hospitals so important? Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires hospitals, health plans, clinics, nursing homes, physicians, and other providers to offer qualified interpreters to Limited English Proficient patients. Utilizing certified medical interpreters ensures that an interpreter will have the proper training, testing, understanding of medical terminology, and adherence to Code of Ethics to interpret in a medical setting.

While language services are necessary for providing quality care to LEP Patients, health care professionals may struggle with how to use a professional interpreter effectively. The good news? You don’t have to struggle when using professional telephonic interpreters in health care settings! As a leading provider of certified medical interpreters, we understand where problems can arise. These 5 best practices for using telephonic interpreters in hospitals will help you communicate effectively with LEP patients.   

For a deeper understanding of language access in healthcare, Download the Free eBook, “The Healthcare Interpretation Guide: Language Access for a Better Patient Experience.”


5 Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals

1. Begin the conversation by allowing interpreters to introduce themselves and provide their interpreter identification number.

Professional interpreters will give a brief introduction at the beginning of your call in the patient’s language. This introduction consists of identifying themselves as a professional interpreter, explaining their role as a channel for communication, clarifying with the patient that they will interpret everything they say, and giving their Identification number.  Write the interpreter identification number in the patient’s file or patient notes for continuity and tracking.

2. Provide the interpreter with brief context.

Briefly explain the purpose of the call. This will ensure that the interpreter will be able to provide an appropriate tone for the situation. For example, a routine follow-up would naturally have a different tone than a very serious or immediate situation. 


3. Speak to your patient (not to the interpreter).

Speak to your patient directly as if the interpreter was not present. Making eye contact with your patient (not at the phone) and speaking in the first person will bring simplicity, conciseness, and a natural flow to the conversation. Not only will this ensure accuracy on the healthcare side, but it will also help patients feel more comfortable and natural in the setting, allowing for a more accurate account or response from your LEP patient.

Example: “Tell Ms. Tao that we would like to perform some tests today.”

Suggestion: “Ms. Tao, we would like to perform some tests today.” 


4. Choose standard and formal speech and avoid slang and colloquialisms.

Common phrases for native English speakers like “feeling blue” or “let’s wrap up” may not translate effectively into another language. Using direct, uncomplicated language will reduce the chance of confusion that can arise due to cultural differences.

5. Use complete and concise sentences.

Speaking to your patient in complete and concise sentences will simplify the message and maximize comprehension. Pausing briefly between your sentences will aid the phone interpreter in delivering the most straightforward message by not having to memorize paragraphs of speech at one time.

Example: “So, what I’m was thinking is that I’d like to start by going over your home care instructions if that sounds good to you?”

Suggestion: “I would like to explain your home care instructions, please.”

Tip: “Please” and “thank you” are relatively universal means of conveying politeness in different cultures. Using “please” and “thank you” can reduce filler words that may not translate well and will help your phone interpreter deliver the clearest message to your patient.


These best practices for using telephonic interpreters in hospitals are easy to implement and will maximize your time with every interpreter sessions!

Video Guide: Communicating with Phone Interpreters in Hospitals

Situations for Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals

Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals | Telelanguage The need for interpretation services starts when you need to communicate with a limited-English proficient individual but are not able to due to a language barrier. In this instance, connecting to a certified interpreter in order to communicate quickly and effectively becomes necessary. Telephonic Interpretation is an on-demand, remote interpreting service that offers a fast response when urgent or unexpected language barriers comes up.

Available at a low per-minute rate, telephonic interpreting allows you to connect to an interpreter in seconds, regardless of the language needed. Telelanguage’s proprietary technology ensures that there are no outages during national emergencies and allows you to connect to certified medical interpreters, best qualified for your situation, in over 300 languages.

How Professional Interpreters Help Hospitals Provide High-Quality Patient Care:

  • Enhances customer/patient satisfaction
  • Reduces miscommunication errors
  • Most cost-effective interpretation solution
  • Improves efficiency
  • Increases productivity and staff adoption
  • Along with VRI, telephonic interpretation provides a response in seconds for urgent or emergency situations.

Telephonic interpreting offers a cost-effective interpreting solution and is perfect for most spoken language interpreting situations that do not require non-verbal cues or visual contact with the interpreter.

The growth of language diversity in the United States makes interpreter services a valuable part of patient care at every touchpoint of the patient journey. When a patient seeks medical care, effective communication is at the center of positive health outcomes, but if there is a language barrier between the patient and medical staff, a qualified interpreter has a positive impact on patient care, including a higher quality of clinical care, improved care, higher levels of patient satisfaction, fewer communication errors, a greater comprehension of diagnoses and follow up care instructions, and lower rates of readmission.

Your Health Care Language Services Partner

When language barriers arise in health care settings, you need support you can trust to protect the LEP patient experience. At Telelanguage, we provide that support with a 24/7 one-point-of-contact account management system. Over 70% of our current client base are healthcare entities. Language services ensure safety, accuracy, and efficiency when caring for patients in healthcare settings. Telelanguage offers healthcare clients complete language services in over 300 languages to communicate with LEP patients:

  • Certified medical interpreters available 24/7/365 telephonicallyon-site, and via video remote
  • Translation of vital documents, patient forms, and notices
  • Fastest interpreter connect times in the industry
  • Leading-edge proprietary interpretation technology
  • Best medically trained interpreters in the emergency healthcare industry
  • Free Cultural Awareness training to help organizations work effectively LEP patients



Telelanguage Helps Clients Achieve and Maintain Compliance

  • Affordable Care Act, Section 1557 (ACA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI)
  • Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA)
  • The Joint Commission
  • Protected Health Information (PHI)


Learn how quality language services positively impact patient care. Download the Free Industry Resource for Health Care Professionals – “The Healthcare Interpretation Guide: Language Access for a Better Patient Experience.” [Download the Free eBook!]

Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals | Telelanguage

Have questions about interpretation solutions for your hospital or health care facility? Contact us for a free quote, or schedule a free demo to learn how Telelanguage can improve the quality of communication for you and your patients.


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Quality and expert interpretations for medical appointments are available telephonically, face to face, or by video remote!