An application helps some local health care workers communicate with patients who are deaf or do not speak English.
Rosalina Rivera, manager of Network Language Services at Seton Healthcare Family, said Seton Medical Center’s Spanish and American Sign Language interpreters are stretched thin.
To help bridge the gap, Seton contracted with California-based LanguageLine four years ago to test its video remote interpreting, or VRI service. The app allows non-English speaking patients to hear—and in 13 languages also see—a licensed health interpreter on a digital tablet.
Since the trial run, five Seton facilities have adopted the technology, including the Seton Medical Center, Seton Northwest Hospital, Seton Southwest Hospital, Dell Children’s Medical Center and University Medical Center Brackenridge.
Dr. Jessica Morse said she used the LanguageLine app during her residency at Dell Children’s in 2014 when a family of Turkish refugees came into the hospital needing help for one of their children.
Morse said she got a Kurdish interpreter’s voice on the tablet immediately.
“All of the sudden we got all this information,” Morse said.
Austin is one of several Texas resettlement locations for international refugees. Sean Normansell, a senior language interpreter at Seton, said many patients who require interpretation services are well-educated political refugees but are limited in their language proficiency.
Once the user selects a language from the app, the tablet displays a live-streaming interpreter who the user can hear and see. The interpreter can also type physician instructions or prescriptions on the screen.
Normansell said patients’ eyes light up when they see their own language on the screen, and they often take pictures so they can refer back to the information.
LanguageLine Account Executive Jorge Ungo said interpreters are stationed at 29 call centers throughout the United States.
Ungo said Seton is the only health care entity in Austin with VRI service.
“They are paving the way, for sure,” he said.
LanguageLine aids co. sheriff calls
Health care is not the only industry in need of interpretation services. Travis County Sheriff’s Office employees use LanguageLine to take incoming calls, respond to complaints and give residents access to community resources when they do not speak fluent English.
Amy Durall, Travis County Sheriff’s Office Victim Services director, said many responders are bilingual, but many Austin residents’ first language is neither English nor Spanish.
The sheriff’s office uses LanguageLine’s phone interpretation service, Durall said.
“Without that we’d have no way to effectively communicate with people,” she said. “The alternative for us is either pantomime, or we don’t provide services in an effective way.”
LanguageLine Account Executive Jorge Ungo said before LanguageLine began offering its video remote interpreting service in 2008, it offered phone and in-person interpretation only. Phone interpretation is heavily used in the health care community for patient reminder calls, setting appointments and nurse phone consultations, Ungo said.
Williamson County Justice of the Peace courts also use LanguageLine’s phone interpretation service, County Representative Connie Watson said.
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