Ill. hospitals offer patients video interpreters

Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

URBANA – New video technology offering patients help from language interpreters via smartphone or tablet is being adopted at a growing number of hospitals in Illinois, as proponents point to advantages on top of making the process more personal.

The face-to-face component enables the use of sign language, and because the work is done remotely, interpreters can be found quicker. It also lifts the interpreting burden off of family members who may be unfamiliar with medical terminology or may summarize information incorrectly.

Presence Covenant Medical Center in Urbana and Presence United Samaritans in Danville are the latest to put the technology to use, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported Saturday.

Both hospitals were already offering phone interpreters in 180 languages. But the video element adds an important dimension and broadens the range of skills interpreters can put to use, such as sign language, said United Samaritans spokeswoman Gretchen Yordy.

Covenant language services supervisor Alejandra Coronel said a professional interpreter can do the job with more detachment than a relative.

“If you are there with a family member, you might be biased in the information you’re going to provide to your loved one,” she told The News-Gazette. “Or it can be complicated because it might be an abuser who is bringing the loved one. We don’t know if the patient is being served in the way they are supposed to be served.”

Coronel said sometimes family members thrust into the role of interpreter can come away with feelings of guilt if the patient later dies. They might wonder if there was a miscommunication that led to a wrong treatment, she said.

The Presence hospitals are using a service called LanguageU through LanguageLine Solutions.

Also offering video interpretation in Urbana are the Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Physician Group.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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