Remote Interpreters Are Critical in the Shift to Telehealth

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits were on the rise. A report by FAIR Health found telehealth claims increased by 8,336% nationally between April 2019 and April 2020, rising to 13% of all claims. With its effectiveness proven, there will likely be a long-term shift to virtual healthcare, along with the need to bridge the communication gap for limited English proficient (LEP) patients. This is one of many ways that current events are changing the localization industry — a topic discussed in MultiLingual’s latest issue, just released today.

Throughout the past several months, many hospitals and healthcare systems have scrambled to support their LEP patients remotely. With more than 350 languages spoken across the US, and with 20% of the US population speaking a language other than English at home, these already-disenfranchised communities are finding themselves disproportionately affected by this transition.

Hospitals and healthcare systems are using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Webex for virtual care delivery, but these systems were not specifically designed to easily add skilled medical interpreters into a session. And questions surrounding security and confidentiality have caused concern and led many healthcare providers to seek out interpreting services and platforms that reduce the risks. Telemedicine-specific platforms like American Well, Teladoc and have little to no language support built in for LEP patients, despite federal laws that require federally-funded healthcare entities to provide language access services.

While the use of these platforms has increased since the pandemic, LEP patients have largely been left out of these virtual encounters. Language service companies that support healthcare systems nationwide with remote interpreting services, are well-positioned for this challenge.

It is immensely important for patients to receive the care they need in their primary language. In the midst of a global health crisis, when in-person visits aren’t always safe or viable, the right technology and an experienced interpreter who has command of a wide range of medical terminology are key to ensuring a successful telehealth session.

Secure, HIPAA-compliant interpreter-assisted telehealth solutions, such as three-way video remote interpreting (VRI) call features, ensure providers can quickly connect to a remote LEP patient with an interpreter already on the line — offering the advantages of face-to-face communication from a safe distance. It’s an effective way for providers to stay connected to their LEP patients and limit exposure to illnesses.

Language integration in telehealth is becoming increasingly critical, as more and more patients demand virtual care solutions to meet their healthcare needs. Organizations are starting to incorporate interpreting services at the point of care, realizing that, regardless of what platform is used, it needs to be accessible to all patients with skilled medical interpreting thoughtfully integrated.


Kristin Quinlan
Kristin Quinlan is CEO of Certified Languages International (CLI), a language company offering remote interpreting services in more than 230 languages. Quinlan’s commitment to the language industry earned her a position on the Association of Language Companies (ALC)’s Leadership Council and the board of directors of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS).

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