There’s a scene in the British sitcom IT Crowd where Jen, the IT department manager, is asked what “IT” stands for during an interview. She fumbles, struggles, tries to change the subject, even excuses herself for a moment, but ultimately cannot answer it. While funny because she’s an IT manager, I think we can relate — to some degree, we’re all Jen.
Technology in the workplace can be perplexing. We use it not always knowing how it works, or why it works, leaving that to a select few, the “techies” of the office.
But there are some cases where it will be critical to know, no matter your role, how certain aspects of technology work in order to do your job effectively. Case in point: video remote interpreting (VRI).
When you do not speak nerd
In-person interpreting has long been a mainstay in healthcare. Over-the-phone interpreting soon followed suit. While there is a learning curve for both of these modalities, it’s rather short — often all that’s required is the use of a telephone and/or scheduling software.
VRI can be a little more complicated. Technologically speaking, there are more moving pieces, more factors to consider, and (generally) more stakeholders involved from the get-go. And while it might seem daunting, you don’t need a computer science degree to understand the workings of a VRI solution. You just need to know the basics, especially if there’s a good chance you’ll be the first person that people reach out to for questions.
Features provide certain capabilities that benefit the end user of a product. For VRI, a key feature might be a display at the top of your language selection screen that shows your top 5 languages. The benefit would be quick and easy access to the languages your health system uses most. In other words, features are the fun, helpful stuff.
Through using the VRI platform and teaching others to use it, you’ll get to know its features very well. Going above and beyond in learning each feature will empower you to answer any question that’s thrown your way. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Get your hands dirty. Jump in and test out the product. Go through it thoroughly. Press every button, look at every menu, and make sure every aspect makes sense to you.
- Maintain a thorough understanding. Make sure you can clearly communicate the value of each feature to others.
- Use your resources. Many VRI companies provide free implementation, instructional materials, and guidance on the product through the life of the agreement. If you’re unsure of something, ask!
- Keep up with changes. Sign up for any communication from your provider, so you’re always in the loop should there be any changes.
VRI system requirements
The more technical aspects of, well, all technology can get tricky, but this is an area where special attention is needed. If you want to mitigate frustration down the road, the best way to do that is to understand your VRI solution’s system requirements. By knowing what the system needs to run, you’ll have a better grasp troubleshooting possible solutions if something goes wrong.
Some things to know:
- Look in-house first. To put it simply, a successful VRI connection needs three parts all working in tandem: your organization’s network, an internet connection, and your vendor’s network. When issues arise, there could be a number of reasons along this chain, but the first course of action should be to look within (a.k.a. contact your IT department). This is because common offenders (dropped calls or spotty connections) generally lurk within your own infrastructure. What might be causing the problem? Poor wireless coverage, a lack of dedicated network resources (if end users are accessing VRI through the same network bandwidth as visitors), or slow performance on local computer hardware.
- Solution deployment. It’s possible your VRI platform could be deployed from a web browser, an app, or both. Knowing how end users can access your solution, and on what devices, will be essential.
- Compatible operating system. If you use a web browser to access VRI, you’ll need to know which browsers are compatible with which operating systems. For example, Safari is not available on Android or Windows devices. If your hospital system uses both Android (or Windows) and Apple products, end users could get confused on how to access the service when jumping between the two, so you might consider committing these to memory.
Robust security is the holy grail of healthcare. And for good reason — healthcare organizations accounted for 45% of ransomware attacks.
Because VRI will be used to transmit personal health information, it needs to be secure and, of course, HIPAA compliant. The good news is that most reputable VRI companies put security first. Here are some things you’ll need to know about your platform, and some useful definitions to be familiar with:
- Data storage. Healthcare has been deluged with data in the last decade, but rest assured. No data should be stored on the user’s machine after conducting a VRI session.
- Encrypted data transmission. Encryption is what keeps sensitive data safe when sending it to another party and out of the hands of unauthorized individuals. The video sessions should be encrypted, end to end, allowing all parties using the platform — the provider and patient on one end, and the interpreter on the other, for example — to share freely knowing that their communications are safe.
- IT security best practices policy. The security of your platform is only as good as the people who run it — not just the technology that powers it. VRI companies should have clear policies in place to ensure that their developers follow industry-standard best practices. This would include rules about who can access the root VRI infrastructure, how data is secured, etc. It’s not necessary for you to know these by heart, but it is important for you to know that your VRI vendor has a comprehensive policy that’s available to you.
VRI might be a new venture for you and learning the more technical details outside your purview. But you’re not alone. Vendors like CLI are here to help you learn the system inside and out, so you can be confident in your health system’s ability to get a video interpreter whenever it’s needed.
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