The Importance of Medical Interpreters For Equal Care

Importance and Types of Medical Interpretation | The Enterprise World

Every single person in the United States has the right to immediate and accurate medical help. It doesn’t matter if they are born in the United States, here as an immigrant from another country, or on vacation. The problem is that some of these patients seeking help will struggle with a language barrier. What do they do if they have a poor grasp of English and need to speak to a doctor or hospital? What if they are non-verbal due to a medical condition or disability?

That’s where medical interpretation services can help. These expert translators can bridge the gap and get people the care they need. So, what types of medical interpreters are there, and why are they so important?

What Is Medical Interpretation?

Medical interpretation is a translation service that can help bridge the gap between patients and medical personnel. Unlike other medical translation services, where translators can work on documents to write information, this one is about interpreting speech. Patients who call a clinic for advice or to ask for emergency care may not have English as their first language.

Importance and Types of Medical Interpretation | The Enterprise World

They may struggle to get their specific points across, leading to communication breakdowns and a lack of care. Clinics that bring an interpreter into the conversation get the conversation translated into English. In return, that interpreter can pass on the right information to the patient in their own language.

The Rights To Medical Interpretation

Medical interpretation is such an important job within the medical sector there is now a legal requirement for its provision. Changes to the law in 2020 meant that it became mandatory in certain conditions. Therefore, if patients find themselves in a position where they need a translator in an emergency situation, they are entitled to one. Someone within the health service needs to make that happen to give them the care they need.

Otherwise, there is the risk of discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Immigrants who come over to find work and start a new life are entitled to the same basic health care needs. If they are in an emergency situation, but English is not their first language, they still have the right to be understood. There may also be the risk of discrimination based on disability. Medical interpretation can also apply to those with limited speech or with non-verbal communication. These patients still need an advocate to explain their symptoms and concerns.

Importance and Types of Medical Interpretation | The Enterprise World

OPI, VRI, And SVI Medical Interpretation: What’s the Difference?

There are different types of medical translation services out there to help patients and medics with accurate interpretations. VRI and SVI services are very similar. These are both video calls, with one offering Video Remote Interpretation and the other Scheduled Video Interpretation. The latter is a way to set up a video call online between parties, with the interpreter acting as a middle person to make sure both the patient and medical professional are on the same page.

These calls are great for consultations where doctors need to be sure that a patient understands their diagnosis, treatment plan, and/or the medication they need to take. Remote video calls offer a different solution when there is a more immediate call for help.

OPI interpretation services are a little different. These are Over-the-Phone Interpretation calls, where either the medical facility or patient will call a translator and have them listen in on a conversation. These services are important for immediate care when there is no option to have someone there in person. Obviously, in-person interpretation is always the ideal solution because they can clearly hear and see everything that’s going on at that moment. However, clinics may not have someone on call who speaks the right language, and patients may not have anyone they know who’s bilingual.

Are Over-The-Phone Interpretation Services Helpful?

There are pros and cons to this approach. One of the pros for medical professionals is that this method is more cost-effective than in-person care. It is also much more reliable in an emergency than in-person or scheduled calls. You can reach a professional on the other end of the line who is fluent in the language spoken. They should be experienced enough to understand exactly what’s going on and how to present that information to the other party.

The best medical interpretation agencies will have a high-quality OPI medical interpreter available that speak various languages, including those that are less common. Therefore, it should not matter what ethnicity the patient is and what dialect they speak. From the patient’s perspective, these phone calls can feel less intrusive than talking to someone face-to-face. They get to explain potentially sensitive information to a stranger, not someone working for the hospital.

Importance and Types of Medical Interpretation | The Enterprise World

The biggest downside of this OPI approach is not being able to see facial expressions, body language, and other cues. Context and tone can make all the difference when interpreting what someone is trying to communicate. The best interpreters can get context clues from the sentences spoken. However, it’s not as easy without being there in person to see the emotion behind the words. There are no additional materials to help, like documents or handwritten notes.

Another drawback here is the inability to help those patients mentioned before with non-verbal communication or speech issues. A benefit of the video call is the chance to read body language and BSL clearly enough to translate it with ease. Also, there is always the risk of connection issues and miscommunications between interpreters and medics. A glitch in the line or a misheard word could make a big difference. There is this risk with the video calls too.

Helping Patients No Matter Their Background

Whether doctors work with OPI, VRI, or SVI systems, they all provide a vital service to patients in the USA. There is room for all three in any medical clinic. The video calls can pick up on important information during consultations, while the over-the-phone services provide valuable instant support. Either way, patients with poor English skills and those with non-verbal communication have a right to these interpreters.

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