Video interpreters could save hospitals money, improve care time

Doctors, nurses and therapists at 30 Providence Health & Services facilities across the western United States can now better treat non-English speaking and deaf patients with the help of online interpreters, the Spokesman-Review reported.

In 2011, the Seattle-based system tested a number of online interpretation companies and finally landed on Language Access Network, an Ohio-based national provider that uses a touch-screen computer to reach an interpreter almost instantly, after relying on in-person interpreters for years.

Video interpretation could help hospitals' bottom lines, as insurance doesn't cover the cost of in-person interpreters, who often charge at least $30 an hour plus per-mile travel costs. Hospitals often have to cover these costs, especially if Medicaid patients are treated in an emergency department, according to the article.

Video interpreting at hospitals allows doctors to respond to patients' needs quickly and reduces costs, said Cathy McInroe, director of social work at Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, Washington. Now the hospitals use an in-person interpreter one out of six times a patient needs a translator, she said.

The system connects hospitals to five around-the-clock centers staffed with medically trained interpreters who can translate in more than 200 languages, with monthly service charges and per-minute fees, according to the article. 

Interpreters are an important part of care. In February, a deaf man's family filed a lawsuit against three Long Island medical facilities, claiming the man died of malignant melanoma because the facilities failed to get him a sign-language interpreter and performed procedures without explaining the risks and benefits, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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