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Medical Interpretation 101: How It Works

The cultural and linguistic diversity of the United States is rapidly changing. Over 8% of the population (25 million people) are limited-English proficient (LEP), withc certain regions more linguistically diverse than others.

To ensure health equity for all patients — no matter what language they speak — healthcare providers must make language access and medical interpretation core components of how they function. 

The Different Modes of Medical Interpretation 

Here's a look at the different modes of medical interpretation, as well as a few usage-based scenarios where the specific method would be most valuable. 

On-site Medical Interpretation 

For many years, on-site interpretation services were the standard way healthcare providers ensured language access for LEP patients. In certain situations, on-site medical interpretation is still the most suitable mode of communication. Although it is not ideal for general healthcare scenarios because of the costs involved, difficulty finding an interpreter that speaks the necessary language, and the risk of changing the patient-provider dynamic with an additional party physically present.

With on-site interpretation, non-verbal cues and body language are important to ensure a full understanding of the health information being delivered. To provide the best experience, patients and providers should speak directly to one another instead of the interpreter. When a healthcare provider must deliver sensitive or emotionally charged information, scheduling an on-site interpreter with your language services provider can be more personal and empathetic.

Use cases: On-site interpreting can be a good option when interpreting for patients who are cognitively impaired, in mental health scenarios where a disembodied voice can be problematic, or when multiple parties need interpreting services.

Telephone Interpretation 

Telephone interpretation connects the care provider and patient with a professional medical interpreter over the phone either on-demand or by scheduling calls to take place during a patient's visit. The best language services companies contract professional linguists for a variety of different languages. For instance, at GLOBO, we offer telephone interpretation in over 350 unique languages. This is important because some of the latest studies from the U.S. Census Bureau have revealed that there are at least 350 languages spoken in the U.S. 

Use cases: The accessibility of telephonic medical interpretation makes it an effective language support option for health service scenarios, especially since the population has become more comfortable and technologically savvy. This mode of communication is ideal for most encounters, including general patient-provider interactions, pre-appointment confirmations or check-ins, customer service calls, and even patient scheduling and billing tasks.

Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) 

VRI medical interpretation gives healthcare providers access to an on-demand interpreter via both sound and video. In a sense, VRI is a hybrid interpretation mode that falls between in-person interpreting and telephonic interpreting. The patient gets to visualize the interpreter, which can be more comforting than simply hearing a voice but is also necessary for some care scenarios to meet the needs of the patient. VRI can also support multi-participant experiences. For example, several individuals can join the video meeting from multiple locations.

Use cases: The combination of audio and voice can be especially valuable for just about all care scenarios. Due to the accessibility of VRI, many healthcare providers rely on this type of medical interpretation for most LEP patient interactions. However, visualization is necessary for some situations. For example, visuals allow communication using American Sign Language (ASL), which can be especially important for Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients. However, VRI can also be good when a patient relies on non-verbal cues to read emotions.

Enhance Medical Communication With Experienced Language Services 

At GLOBO, our goal has always been to simplify language support. From on-site, VRI, and telephone medical interpretation to rapid medical translation for documents and patient materials, we offer support every step of the way. Schedule a service demo today. 

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