What to Know about Interpretation & Telemedicine

May 19, 2020

Digital health tools are rapidly growing in popularity among U.S. healthcare providers for making communication easier with their patients. A prime example is when the patient does not speak English. Now, more than ever before, medical interpreters are crucial in telemedicine.

Related: How to Overcome Language Barriers in Healthcare

What Exactly is Telemedicine?

As its name suggests, telemedicine is the use of technology to provide healthcare services remotely. Using this tech, physicians can treat patients when and as needed, regardless of the physical location of these two people.

Telemedicine services typically use a computer, smartphone, tablet, or another mobile device, and they rely on secure video and audio connections. As for the types of services, there is a wide range, including:

● Consultations

● Medication management

● Chronic illness management

● Follow-ups

Why Telemedicine Matters

While hospital-based telemedicine dates back to the late 1950s, its use has risen considerably within the last few years. Telemedicine has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare system, not only in hospital settings but also in homes, communities, and office settings.

A significant benefit of telemedicine is that it expands access to care, providing better care delivery to those who live in rural areas and others who do not have access to local healthcare. Furthermore, a recent study of a Geisinger Health Plan (GHP) telemonitoring program found a reduction in both the cost of care of the patients and hospital readmissions.

The financial savings were significant during the study period. GHP’s return on investment was approximately $3.30 in savings for every $1 spent. Between 2008 and 2012, the amount saved totaled about $216.

But while there are many benefits, telemedicine also has its challenges.

Liberty Language Services provide the best medical interpreting service to help you communicate with your patients.

Language Barriers to Telemedicine

Clear communication is essential to effectively treat a patient, whether it is in-person or done remotely via technology. However, not every patient speaks English or is fluent in it.

About 25.1 million individuals in the United States have limited-English proficiency. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) notes that 67.3 million U.S. residents speak a language other than English within their households, which is based on the 2018 Census Bureau data.

As a percentage of the population, that figure applies to 21.9 percent of U.S. residents. That number has risen considerably; it is twice as high as 1990 (11 percent) and close to triple from 1980 (CIS).

Furthermore, there are 4 million deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) individuals in America. When we take all these statistics together, it is more important than ever for healthcare organizations to provide language access.

Providing language access quickly, is possible when physicians incorporate properly trained medical interpreters into their on-site and telemedicine sessions. The use of interpreters who are specially trained in providing remote services can assist providers in bringing quality care to more patients.

Types of Language Services

To provide the best care possible to the limited English proficient population, as well as HOH and deaf individuals, U.S. healthcare providers can use a range of services:

● On-site interpretation

● Written translation

● Audio translation using technology

● Audiovisual translation using technology

Liberty Language Services provides each of the above-noted solutions efficiently to healthcare providers to save them time and money by reducing interpretation periods with effective communication. This strategy leads to optimal treatment and care for their patients.

Healthcare organizations use a combination of language access services when on-site ones do not make the most sense, from a time or cost perspective. Depending on what is needed, it could be a combination of telephonic interpretation, video remote interpretation (VRI), and medical translation.

Liberty Language provides on-demand access to interpreters that are easy to integrate into telemedicine sessions. Find out more below about VRI and telephonic interpretations.

Video Remote Interpreting

This audiovisual telemedicine service has a high level of accuracy thanks to the visual aid of the interpreter. Liberty Language Services provides physicians and other medical-related professionals access to hundreds of spoken languages via the on-demand interpreter service that works simply by pressing a button.

VRI does not require special equipment either with Liberty Language Solutions. Instead, simply use your computer or a mobile device, such as a phone with a camera. Healthcare providers also get access to professional interpreters of American Sign Language so they can communicate clearly with deaf or HOH patients.

On-demand VRI also eliminates late or missed appointments by interpreters as they are available with the call. Plus, interpreters and patients do not risk exposure to viruses as they would if they had in-person contact in an unsafe medical environment.

Related: How Can I Become a Certified Medical Interpreter

Telephonic Interpretation

Connecting with patients who speak limited English or no English at all is easier with over the phone (OPI) interpretation. Highly skilled interpreters at Liberty Language Services have years of on-site healthcare interpretation experience so that they can meet the diverse needs of the industry.

People can easily get access to a certified medical interpreter through Liberty Language’s online system, without long wait times for call connections. Custom call menus and greetings also make the experience more comfortable and effective for callers, and there is HIPAA compliant call recording and storage.

Using video remote interpreting and telephone-based interpreting, patients can expect to receive:

● A thorough understanding of their health circumstances

● Knowledge about suggested healthcare solutions

● An in-depth comprehension of potential healthcare outcomes

The communication needs of physicians and patients get met through these easy-to-use services. It’s especially true as the interpreters are selected based on their detailed knowledge of the subject matter.

These interpreters are available via the communication technologies at almost any time of the day and in numerous languages. This system is typically more efficient than trying to get multilingual or American Sign Language interpreters on-site. Providing those on-site services can be costly and time-consuming as well.

Medical Interpreters in Telemedicine Can Help

Professional online interpreters with medical training are necessary for healthcare providers to communicate with patients concisely to promote positive health-related outcomes. On-demand interpretation services use technology to provide fast and effective access to care with a high level of interpreting accuracy.

VRI and telephonic interpretations are two great examples. They provide rural communities with access to care where on-site interpreters might otherwise be hard to find and save doctors’ travel costs (as well as their time spent getting to the destination).

The significant benefits of on-demand interpreting and medical translation is that healthcare organizations pay only for the services they use, and these services fit comfortably within a telemedicine system. Most importantly, patients with limited-English proficiency receive a higher delivery of care within this type of model to potentially improve health outcomes.

Also, remote interpretation by phone or video has the potential to improve privacy, in some cases, as opposed to in-person interpretations. For the telephone type, the interpreter does not see the patient, and with the video, the webcam can be turned off if necessary. Without the third party (the interpreter), the patient may feel more open to disclose sensitive or uncomfortable information.

Federal Law and Language Services

Under federal law, covered entities must provide language assistance to patients who require it. These entities refer to healthcare programs and activities that get federal funds, such as those that receive reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare. That falls under non-discrimination laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Americans with Disabilities Act.

Recent regulations have extended legal rights by including those who have limited English proficiency and who are hearing-impaired. They now have the right to “meaningful access” to care under the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557. In order to comply with this new, stronger law, hospital systems must update their systems, although a recent lawsuit shows that not everyone is compliant, at least not yet.

Unfortunately, roughly 30 percent of hospitals still do not offer language services to their patients, either on-site or remotely through technology. That number is shockingly high, especially given the ease of incorporating a professional interpreter into a telemedicine system using Liberty Language Services.

Aside from being illegal, noncompliance does not make sense when you consider that providing a qualified interpreter can lower readmission rates. Using a trained interpreter is associated with lower 30-day readmission rates, as well as shorter hospital stays.

Having trouble communicating with your patients? Check out how Liberty Language Services can help

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