The use of video remote interpreting (VRI) has proved to be particularly effective with children and their families in hospital settings – even leading to a few pleasant surprises.

VRI is not a one-size-fits-all solution in a children’s hospital, however.

Three of the best children’s hospitals in the US—Boston Children’s Hospital, Children’s Health System of Texas, and Children’s Specialised Hospital in New Jersey—have managed to successfully implement video interpreting to improve understanding between providers, paediatric patients, and their families. We asked representatives from each of these hospitals what they considered to be the greatest advantages presented by VRI, as well as instances when it was not considered to be a good option.

(Our full conversation was published in our recent e-book, Video Interpreting for Children’s Hospitals: Best Practices When Caring for Paediatric Patients.)

Question: What do you consider to be the greatest advantage presented by video remote interpreting?

Janet Giordano MSW, LSW, Director of Patient Care Coordination and Patient Experience, Children’s Specialised Hospital: I would say the on-demand nature of it. When people come in on the spot and you don’t have an available on-staff interpreter to provide language services, you can still bring in that video and have a live person within a matter of seconds right in front of them. It has been amazing in that regard.

Sandy Habashy, Operations and Training Manager, Interpreter Services, Boston Children’s Hospital: We have very last-minute requests and the rapid accessibility is invaluable. It’s a great option to have in our emergency room, for example. I would also say the huge variety of languages. No matter how many interpreters we have on staff, we could never be able to hire people for all languages. Video interpreting is a great option for that.

Shannon Swope MSS, LSW, Manager of Outpatient Care Coordination, Children’s Specialised Hospital: There’s a great ease of use, both for unexpected visits as well as languages that we don’t have on staff—even rare languages. We had a family that was with us for about two months. They spoke a rare dialect. Our representative was fantastic and we were able to schedule a [video] interpreter prior to the patient and family even coming in.

Question: When have you found video interpreting to not be a good option?

SH: You have to measure the criticality of the conversation. For sensitive or complex discussions, it’s preferable to have an interpreter there in person. Care conferences or end-of-life discussions would be examples.

Also, for an intake appointment where there are lots of questions, a face-to-face interpreter might be preferable. For example, a first-time physical therapy evaluation might have an on-site interpreter, and then use video for follow-up visits.

Mental health scenarios and certain disabilities are also not ideal for video. For example, we’ve found that it is really hard with autistic kids to have somebody come on the screen and ask them to pay attention.

Classes or multi-patient therapy groups where there is a lot of interaction and a lack of structure are usually best handled by a face-to-face interpreter.

SS: If the patient or parent has difficulty seeing or hearing, then obviously the video interpreter is not ideal. Visually impaired patients have challenges with the video, so we look for in-person interpreting options in those cases.

The other issue is connectivity. Certain areas of the facility, like radiology, have thick walls that make Wi-Fi connectivity difficult. I recommend testing connectivity before depending on video interpreting for a session.

Question: What modality are you using in group sessions?

Melina Kolbeck, Director of Language Access Services, Children’s Health System of Texas: Face-to-face interpretation is ideal for a group session. The cross-talk makes it difficult for a remote interpreter to follow. In an emergency, if we can’t access an on-site interpreter, I turn to video next, and phone would be my last option.

In our new e-book, you will learn:

  • How the top children’s hospitals are discovering that video remote interpreting (VRI) is particularly helpful with paediatric patients
  • Best practices for using video interpreting with this patient community.
  • The strategic benefits of VRI that improve patient outcomes while also speaking to those who oversee hospital budgets.

Please click here to download “Video Interpreting for Children's Hospitals: Best Practices When Caring for Paediatric Patients.