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04/07/2021

How Interpretation Services in Telehealth Addresses Health Inequity

07 04

How Interpretation Services in Telehealth Addresses Health Inequity

Even prior to the surge of COVID-19, health disparities have been a well-documented ongoing issue, arising issues related to patients’ accessibility, including insurance coverage, geographic availability, and personal relationship. These factors profoundly affect their healthcare quality and outcome. 

For providers to gain trusting relationships with patients, effectively communicating and educating patients is crucial for both treatment and prevention of future complications. Language barriers are critical issues in the development of these relationships, often leading to unequal treatment, and impacting healthcare quality.

A 2020 study in the Oman Medical Journal found that “patients who do not speak the local language are disadvantaged in terms of access to healthcare services. Similarly, several studies have shown that patients who face language barriers have poorer health outcomes compared with patients who speak the local language.” 

Fourteen studies were conducted where findings were divided into three categories: the impact of language barriers on medical providers (such as physicians and nurses), patients, and the cost and quality of healthcare services. Half of these studies focused on language barriers and patient satisfaction. 

The results of the studies from Limited English Proficiency Plan (LEPP) are as follows:

66.7% of LEPPs reported that they had a barrier to accessing healthcare

20% of LEPPs indicated that not seeking health care services if these were not available for fear of not understanding

70.7% of LEPPs reported that the limited availability of interpreter services

Read the full study from the Oman Medical Journal here: Implications of Language Barriers for Healthcare: A Systematic Review

Virtual care ensures healthcare equity for all. It  particularly solves the issue of accessibility in three key areas: rural areas, subspecialty acute care, and care where it requires to be contactless (such as the pandemic). 

A solution that breaks down these barriers is through on-demand translation services provided by virtual care technologies and services.

Related: Patient-Centric Care Take a Leap Forward with VeeClinic

With approximately 61.6 million individuals in the United States that speak a language other than English at home, and about 25.1 million considered Limited English Proficient (LEP), it will be essential for hospitals to provide access to all languages.

For example, there is a total of 14.9 million Hispanic population in California, and English-speaking providers in California frequently receive patients who only speak Spanish. By the time a provider sees a patient having a stroke, the symptoms of the stroke (including difficulty in speaking) have progressed. The patient may bring in a family member to help communicate in the appointment. However, that member is also very dependent on their native language. Since “time is brain,” it is highly critical to receive as much information from the patient as possible. If the virtual care system is implemented, that provider will be able to invite an interpreter with just a click of a button. 

In my own practice, I once had a patient who presented with a brain bleed. In these hyperacute critical situations, important information — like whether a patient is on blood thinners — is vital; you need to quickly obtain accurate information, and there is no room for error. While the patient at baseline spoke a little bit of English, clinically he was very lethargic, and therefore barely able to speak; and his wife did not speak any English. I needed to know what medications he was taking, as it would drastically change the patient’s outcome. Using VeeMed’s on-demand live translation services, I was able to quickly get crucial information from the patient’s wife that was verified, accurate, and current. In acute settings, such as this case, on-demand translation services significantly impact patient outcomes. 

VeeMed’s platform includes built-in access to live, on-demand interpreters for over 44 languages, including American Sign Language (ASL). 

 

 

Here are a few of the many benefits of applying VeeMed’s interpretation services:

— Seamlessly invite a certified language interpreter into the call at any point during the visit 

— Conveniently access the interpreter through any mobile device or computer

— Increase accuracy with an interpreter through visual support 

VeeMed ensures to provide seamless and exceptional virtual care for all, and our providers prioritize creating a long-lasting and trusting rapport with their patients. 

Related: VeeMed Achieves ISO 27001 Certification and SOC 2 Type 1 Compliance

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