Providing language access solutions is both a professional service and a global mission for LanguageLine Solutions®. Providing affordable language services to limited English proficient (LEP) populations and individuals who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing is both satisfying and fulfilling. 

Our mission, to enable communication and empower relationships, is apparent as we serve hospital patients who are receiving vital medical care that can improve, prolong, and even save their lives. We have the privilege of being a critical resource during those dramatic situations, helping facilitate communication between doctors, patients, and their families.

Face-to-face staff interpreters were the norm

In years past, hospitals had to rely on a limited staff of onsite interpreters who either worked for the hospital itself or were contracted from outside agencies as medical interpreters.

Onsite interpreting still has its place today. In some circumstances, it’s the only viable option. The trouble, though, is being limited to only that option.

On occasion, when a patient would come in speaking a language of lesser demand, hospital staff would need to scramble to locate a language interpreter who could assist. Sometimes, it could take hours or days to get an interpreter to the hospital, at great expense, at great emotional cost to the patient and family.

In some cases, this delay may have contributed to incorrect or inadequate treatment as important details of the patient’s condition could not be communicated to the doctors quickly and effectively.

While the onsite staff interpreters working at hospitals across the nation were doing the best they possibly could under the circumstances, many were overworked, highly stressed, and often distracted from providing optimal interpreting services because they were being pulled in so many different directions.

Phone interpreting improved the situation

Thirty-four years ago, LanguageLine Solutions introduced on-demand telephone interpreting, and healthcare facilities and emergency services were among the first to see the incredible value this service provided.

While many hospitals still have some onsite staff interpreters available, as they should, phone interpreting has changed the entire language access landscape as professional language interpreters are now available in 240 languages, many of which are specifically trained to handle complex medical conversations.

Being able to quickly communicate with a patient, regardless of what language they speak, has improved patient care and satisfaction dramatically.

In exchange for these invaluable benefits, phone interpreting did come without one truly valuable element that onsite face-to-face interpreting afforded patients: visual cues.

Video remote interpreting combines the best of both worlds

While a phone interpreter can accurately convey exactly what someone is saying to their health care provider, and can do the same in conveying the provider’s words to the patient, they are at a disadvantage in that they’re not actually there, watching the patient and provider interact. They can’t see gestures, body language, facial expressions, and all the tiny non-verbal cues that provide the full context of communication, beyond words.

They’re also not able to offer the patient reassuring eye contact and a smile from someone who truly understands them. The peace of mind and relief that this human connection provides can do wonders in facilitating effective medical care.

When video remote interpreting (VRI) became possible a few years ago, it truly combined the best of both worlds: on-demand access to professional interpreters, plus the face-to-face contact that onsite interpreters were able to provide in the past, with all the inherent benefits.

The results of hospitals adopting this powerful new technology have been outstanding.

A VRI success story

For example, at a major hospital system in Texas, seasoned doctors and nurses have seen the entire evolution of language access options unfold in their health system.

They previously relied exclusively on face-to-face interpretation and experienced the natural limitations and challenges of that option. They later upgraded their language access program to include phone interpreting and were able to note the improvement in patient care as a result. However, over time, providers and patients became less satisfied with the challenges encountered by trying to have the results that face-to-face encounters provided, but with the immediacy of on-demand over-the-phone interpreters in hundreds of languages.

Video interpreting case study. LanguageLine.

It wasn’t until a Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) project made possible by the 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver introduced VRI, that they realized the gap that could be filled by video remote interpreting. The initial deployment of tablets loaded with a video interpreting app did not come without its own challenges. From lost chargers to challenges with positioning the tablet, the hospital quickly learned that a better solution was needed, and turned to their partners at LanguageLine Solutions for help.

In January of 2015, the hospital system rolled out the “Interpreter On Wheels” mobile Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) cart. With the support of the LanguageLine’s team of healthcare implementation specialists, “Interpreters on Wheels” were deployed in key areas throughout the health system including clinics and outpatient centers in remote areas. Implementation specialists worked with site champions to train staff on utilizing the new carts and accessing an interpreter, as well as troubleshooting any issues related to Wi-Fi connectivity. The hospital system is now able to provide more patients in need with face-to-face interpretation from the moment they arrive, until they are discharged. Many patients and staff alike have commented on how much they appreciate being able to see and hear a human being who can virtually “stand next to the patient” as they face a difficult ordeal.

Nurses, who are constantly on the move, love the fact that the durable and convenient mobile cart can be easily transferred in and out of patient rooms and adjusted to the patient’s height with just one hand -- while handling medications, and other important medical tools with the other. Rather than fussing with holding a laptop or propping up a tablet, they can simply wheel it in, place it next to the bed or exam table, and access an interpreter within seconds. Additionally, the cable management system makes it virtually impossible for tablet chargers to be misplaced (a common occurrence before the deployment of the “Interpreters on Wheels”).

Perhaps most importantly, VRI has had great outcomes for patients. In a recent study conducted by a pediatric Emergency Department*, researchers found that, in comparison to phone interpreting encounters, patients remembered more about their child’s diagnosis when accessing an interpreter via video. Additionally, patients have expressed - even tearfully at times - how much it means to them to have a human being they can speak to and who can speak for them. And they often mention that the interpreter’s silent smile is just as valuable as their helpful words.

If your facility can benefit from the added dimension of video remote interpreting, we encourage you to read about our new solution, LanguageLine® InSight Video Interpreting℠, or download our brochure to learn how professional video interpreting can benefit your organization.



*Lion K, Brown JC, Ebel BE, et al. Effect of Telephone vs Video Interpretation on Parent Comprehension, Communication, and Utilization in the Pediatric Emergency Department: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatrics. 2015;169(12):1117-1125. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2630

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