The Need for Interpretation Services in Health Care Systems

Smart Crowd Blog 9_25With a growing international population and millions of previously uninsured Americans gaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the need for interpretation services in health systems has never been greater. The increase in adult patients speaking foreign languages, coupled with ACA mandates on interpretation services in hospitals, have thrust medical interpreters to the forefront of a landmark decision in healthcare.

Historically, interpreters’ assignments in the healthcare sector involved interpreting communications between adults. However, due to the record low number of uninsured children under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they’re frequently called on to eliminate language barriers for Limited English Proficient (LEP) pediatric patients. In recent months, Interpretation services have played a crucial role in generating positive healthcare outcomes for adult LEP patients. Studies have also shown that if language barriers between doctors and adult patients are not overcome, misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment are far more likely to occur.

These issues are exacerbated when the patient is a child, as a lack of English fluency among parents often results in longer hospital stays for children. A recent study by U.S. News & World Report found that pediatric inpatients spend an average of 60 percent longer in the hospital when their parents do not speak English well. Fortunately, qualified medical interpreting can remove the language barriers that keep children in the hospital.

More than ever, the power of the crowd is being leveraged by forward-looking facilities to provide compassionate, equal and immediate access to pediatric patients who speak the rarest of languages.

Medical interpreters are more than just a means of translation; they also bridge the cultural gap between doctors and pediatric patients. In rural areas of the country, where patients are not well-represented in a hospital’s community, technology is helping healthcare providers meet the steady demand for interpreters. The proliferation of tablets and smartphones now allows service providers to combine the speed of in-person interpretation with the affordability of telephonic interpretation.

Video interpretation systems are a growing trend and serve as the best alternative for pediatric patients in rural areas. The technology utilizes a smart crowd of remote interpreters that dial in from call centers or even their own homes, available for a face-to-face discussion in approximately 30 seconds, all from a handheld device. Hospitals and healthcare systems find increased value in video interpretation systems, as they’re a convenient, flexible alternative to an in-person interpretation approach, particularly with cases involving young LEP children.

Benefits of video interpretation are being embraced after years of facilities serving a less diverse population with an extremely small number of languages utilized on staff interpreters and multi-lingual doctors, nurses and support staff to meet this demand in ad hoc fashion. Others contracted with outside agencies to access an expanded pool of languages through locally-based, crowdsourced language specialists.

By carefully pre-screening and managing our pool of 25,000 interpreters, Lionbridge can ensure that a knowledgeable language specialist can quickly interpret sensitive medical discussions. Hospitals and other medical facilities can meet pediatric patient safety and satisfaction requirements without expanding headcount.

Crowdsourcing language service is just one example showcasing the power of the crowd to help the healthcare industry manage costs while more efficiently treating time-sensitive and diverse needs.



What role do you think crowdsourcing will play in the future of the landmark Affordable Care Act? Does the crowd in the cloud represent the solution to the medical interpreter shortage?

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