Accessing Interpreters for Telehealth Made Simple with 3-Way Video Calls

Woman looks at laptop to access an interpreter for telehealth services.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits were on the rise — and with it, the need to bridge the communication gap for limited English proficient (LEP) patients. 

Over the past 6 months, many hospitals and healthcare systems have scrambled to support their LEP patients remotely. They’re using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Webex that were not specifically designed to add medical interpreters into care delivery. This also led to concerns about security and patient confidentiality. And telemedicine platforms like American Well, Teladoc, and are geared toward an English audience, which can increase accessibility issues for non-English-speaking individuals. 

Describing the complicated steps to connect an interpreter using Zoom at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Elaine Khoong notes in The Verge, “You can navigate it, especially if you’re somebody who’s done a ton of Zoom, but it’s not easy to navigate, especially in the middle of a visit.” Dr. Khoong isn’t alone in these frustrations. 

Related: Telemedicine Is Here to Stay, and Interpreting Needs to Be Part of the Conversation [Part 2]

Recentering language access

While the use of these platforms has increased exponentially, LEP patients have largely been left out of these virtual encounters, underscoring the need to recenter language access in telehealth. CLI was well-positioned for this challenge. As a language company supporting healthcare systems nationwide with remote interpreting services, we’ve always been invested in making sure LEP patients have equitable access to healthcare. 

We understand how essential it is for everyone to receive the care they need in their primary language. More than that, in the midst of a global health crisis, we knew the right technology was key to ensuring language access in telehealth sessions when in-person visits weren’t always safe or viable.

Since our inception, CLI has specialized in efficiently connecting remote interpreters, first over the phone and then expanding to video. Our video remote interpreting (VRI) solution was developed on Bluestream Health, an established telehealth platform. While we worked with our clients on integration strategies with the third-party videoconferencing technology they used, the pandemic accelerated the release of our own solution for interpreter-assisted telehealth sessions.

We make 3-way video calls easy

Three women participate in a 3-way video interpreting call on a laptop screen.

This spring, we further enhanced our VRI platform and added a new three-way video call feature. This feature lets providers quickly connect to a remote LEP patient with an interpreter already on the video call — offering the advantages of face-to-face communication from a safe distance. It’s an effective way for providers to stay connected, limit exposure to illnesses, and reach patients where they’re most comfortable — in their homes.

And we made this feature as intuitive as possible. A provider simply sends their LEP patient the session link via a text and/or email. The patient can then join the session by clicking the link. The provider and medical interpreter will be standing by and ready to go as soon as the patient enters the appointment. It’s as easy as that!

Easing patient anxiety with translated materials

It’s natural for apprehension to swirl around with all this new technology (for providers and patients alike). Needless to say, this anxiety can be heightened when a patient doesn’t speak English.

If you’re worried your LEP patients might not understand how to join a session remotely due to language barriers, we have a solution for that, too. We created simple, clear instructions — translated into all our VRI languages — to help LEP patients connect with their providers. And the best part? The instructions are complimentary and provided free to all CLI clients.

Related: Free Multilingual Coronavirus Resources

Providers can send the translated instructions to patients in their preferred language before their appointment. Increasing patient accessibility by providing resources in-language sets up providers to confidently conduct telehealth visits, knowing everyone is prepared.

Partnering for success

Organizations are recognizing the critical need to incorporate interpreting services into their virtual care delivery for LEP patients. Regardless of what platform you use, ease of access should be a central consideration — for all parties involved. Every healthcare system works differently, but one constant is the imperative to reliably connect with medical interpreters whenever and wherever you need them. 

As Dr. Seuss said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” At CLI, we believe in simple answers to complicated questions. Partnering with an experienced language service provider like CLI who can implement remote interpreting solutions quickly and seamlessly is a must.

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