Sarah (not her real name) has been deaf since birth and communicating with those who do not understand American Sign Language (ASL) can be a daily challenge. It can be especially concerning when visiting the doctor. That’s why she’s grateful an onsite ASL interpreter is normally available when she visits her physician at the Sharp Rees-Stealy office in the San Carlos neighborhood in San Diego.
Although the ASL interpreter was temporarily unavailable at her recent visit, Sarah was still able to easily articulate her needs, thanks to a new video remote interpreting (VRI) system being deployed across Sharp HealthCare.
The new system ensures Sharp caregivers can clearly communicate with hearing impaired patients and those with limited English proficiency in any language, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The VRI system consists of an iPad attached to a sturdy stand that can be wheeled to a patient, whether in the doctor’s office or in the hospital. Once the device is placed in front of the patient, the caregiver taps the onscreen connection button, selects the desired language — including ASL — and is then connected to a highly experienced, medically qualified video interpreter within 30 seconds, providing instant, face-to-face communication.
“Communication between patients and clinicians is critical to quality patient care,” says Dr. Steven Green, chief medical officer of Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “This system helps make certain that we understand our patients so they get the right care at the right time.”
The system is so easy to use that during Sarah’s recent experience, a nurse who had not yet had the opportunity to use the VRI system was able to quickly connect Sarah with the onscreen interpreter who stayed with her throughout her visit, which included check-in, laboratory services and physician consultation.
“This is an effective and convenient way to overcome language barriers, especially since it is instant and mobile,” says Stacey Hrountas, CEO, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers. “The certified interpreters must meet rigorous standards so patients and caregivers can understand each other fully, no matter what language they speak. It’s a great tool to have in a community like ours where our patients speak many different languages.”
Sharp is on track to have the VRI iPads deployed at all its hospitals and all 22 Sharp Rees-Stealy sites by February 2016.