5 Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals

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The need for high-quality interpreters in hospitals is now more pressing than ever. Our society is diversifying at an incremental rate and these citizens have an equal right to proper care. Too often, patients that do not speak the local language are forced to rely on “interpreters of convenience” like relatives and hospital staff or worse, they are left without being able to fully communicate with their physician.

Language discordance can increase hospital stay and cause poorer patient care. This can have significant financial ramifications. In order to minimize the effect of language discordance, hospitals need to provide specialized interpreters to their patients. The increased budgetary restraints imposed on public health providers coupled with a paradigm of risk management has made this need even greater. Costs can be cut by providing high quality care to all patients and mitigate the risk associated with miscommunication. The development of cost-effective technologies in the language industry has simplified the once complex and expensive interpreting service delivery.

Numerous studies have suggested that language discordance leads to increased costs for the patient and the hospital as well as poorer health outcomes. Specifically, they note that those who do not speak the local language are more likely to: see their physician more often, are less likely to be given follow-up appointments, less likely to return for follow-up appointments, and are less likely to follow aftercare instructions. In the long run this can lead to worse health outcomes and consequently increased strain on an already stressed healthcare system.

From these results, the importance of interpreting in hospitals can be seen but there is a major logistical concern that has to be addressed. In healthcare facilities, immediate service is often required. This need is most often met through on-staff interpreters or non-professionals. On-staff interpreters are a significant budgetary consideration while non-professional interpreters can often compromise proper medical care and expose healthcare providers to liability. The standard for interpreting services currently is over-the-phone. This solution offers scheduling flexibility and on-demand service but it lacks the visual cues that could have a positive impact on diagnoses and, consequently, mortality and length of stay.

So, what are the best practices for using telephonic interpreters in hospitals? I will show you 5 as you read further. Let’s begin.

Best Practices for Using Telephonic Interpreters in Hospitals

  1. Start out the conversation by the interpreters introducing themselves along with giving their interpreter identification number

At the beginning of the call, professional interpreters have a structure they follow where they give a brief introduction in the patient’s language. What this introduction contains is:

  1. They identify themselves as a professional interpreter
  2. They explain their role as a channel for communication
  3. They also confirm with the patient that they are going to interpret everything the patient says.
  • Give the interpreter a brief context

Let the interpreter know why you are calling. What this will aid the interpreter to do is to know what manner of tone he/she is to use in that instance. A good example would be an urgent situation compared with a regular follow-up. You can obviously tell that the tones used by the interpreter will vary for both cases.

  • Your patient is who you should speak to; not the interpreter

Converse with the patient assuming the interpreter were not present. Your physical presence, use of first person singular, and maintaining eye contact with your patient will create a warm and pleasant environment on which there is a natural flow in your conversation. From the healthcare side, this does not only ensure accuracy but much more patients feel comfortable to talk to you about anything making one able to provide a very precise feedback from your LEP patient.

  • Avoid slangs and colloquialisms as they create ambiguity

It is important to as much as possible refrain from the use of slangs and colloquialisms as this tend to cause confusion for countries that may have cultural differences. So common phrases that sound fine to you may be offensive to someone else. Hence, choose to make standard of formal speeches as this brings clarity to the message being passed across.

  • Use complete concise sentences

By speaking to your patient in clear sentences, it creates simplicity and it becomes easier to comprehend the message. Taking pauses intermittently between your sentences will enable the interpreter not have to worry about memorizing long paragraphs of speech at a time.

These 5 best practices mentioned above are straightforward and easy to implement and it will also save a lot of time with every session.

Privacy in telephone interpretation services provided for hospitals

Some individuals who have never worked with a telephone interpretation service often fear about the loss of privacy or confidentiality. This is a natural feeling when you consider that another person is injected into the conversation. While it may seem unnerving it’s certainly not something to fret over. The field of telephone interpretation has come a long way and the agencies that provide this service recognize the need for confidentiality and privacy.

For peace of mind in clients, telephone interpretation services such as Chatlas often provide signed confidentiality agreements while also binding their agents to strict ethical codes when it comes to handling client interpreting. Additionally, interpreters don’t have access to any personal and private information of the clients.

With professionalism, certification and quality training, Chatlas telephone interpretation service can be a reliable way to communicate across world-wide language barriers in hospitals.

Sign up today and you will not regret it.

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