Help When English Sounds Like Gibberish

HYANNIS – “Wow, this is cool” is a phrase commonly uttered by Cape Cod Healthcare (CCHC) staff when they see the new video interpretation device, Video Remote Interpreting (VRI).

Commonly known as “the video,” VRI is used at CCHC to provide interpretation for providers and patients who speak languages other than English.

The program can be used on smartphones, ipads, or other computer devices.

“Its use is very simple,” said Ceci Phelan-Stiles, Interpreter Services manager. “Grab the ipad, click on the icon (hummingbird) and enter the user ID.”

The devices are already programmed and the user just needs to click on one of the 25 languages available on the device. As demand for VRI grows, the language options via video will continue to increase, said Phelan-Stiles.

Cape Cod Hospital has 14 VRI units, Falmouth Hospital has five and the physician practices at Medical Affiliates of Cape Cod share two. The ipads with the VRI software are located in all of the main hospital departments, such as emergency rooms, outpatient surgery, cardiac care, etc.

“A patient whose English is limited feels a sense of comfort from having a visual of the interpreter. It’s great for patient assessment,” said Wayne Paini, clinical leader on Mugar 6 at Cape Cod Hospital.

The VRI devices are popular among patients and staff. Last year they were used 550 times, with Portuguese, Spanish and Russian being the most requested languages. There were also requests for Arabic, Haitian Creole, Mandarin and many others. The need for American Sign Language is also increasing, with 50 requests last year.

“(The system) is easy and works well. Communication is key to a successful treatment program,” said Paini.

Other Services

Interpretation via ipad is a vital tool for deaf and hard of hearing patients as well. A sign language interpreter can be reached at the click of a button. The patient and interpreter face each other via the screen and the communication is established.

Hospitals and medical offices are required to provide medical interpreter services. The Office of Civil Rights, Joint Commission, Department of Public Health and ERIL (Emergency Room Interpreter Law) all mandate the availability of interpreter services. All interpreters are specially trained in medical interpretation in the languages they provide.

Cape Cod Healthcare’s Interpreter Services has coverage on three levels: live, video and phone. The Over the Phone Interpretation (OPI) devices are available in all departments and the provider only needs to dial the toll free number attached to the phone, request the language, give the patient’s medical record number and an interpreter is offered. Today, 250 languages are available via OPI.

The opportunity for the provider and patient to see each other is the biggest benefit offered by the VRI technology, according to Phelan-Stiles.

“There is a lot of nonverbal as we talk (gestures, facial expressions) that can be seen when the video is used,” she said.

But, while she is excited about what video interpreting can add to her department, in-person interpretation is still optimum, she said.

“Technology (phone or video interpreters) cannot replace having an on-staff interpreter.”

By ROSIANE DEOLIVEIRA, Cape Cod Health News

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