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Life Sciences 08.14.15 BLOG 

How Technology is Revolutionizing Health Care for LEP Patients

By Ken Anders, Chief Operating Officer, TransPerfect Remote Interpreting

Health Care for LEP Patients

How Technology is Revolutionizing Health Care for LEP Patients

For the millions of Americans who count English as a second language, communicating with doctors and health care professionals about medical issues has proven to be a significant challenge. In the past, on-site language interpretation experts were available to help non-English speakers; however, with recent budget cuts and an increase in the diversity of languages spoken, this is no longer a practical option.

As technology continues to evolve, futuristic communication methods are now becoming things of reality. With the help of straight-forward technology, caregivers are able to speak in real-time with specialists in their native language via video communication. These language specialists, available around the clock, represent any number of languages, including American Sign Language. While video, opposed to instant messaging or audio calls, may seem unnecessary, specialists believe cues that cannot be sensed over the phone, such as facial expressions, can help to gauge a patient’s level of pain, cultural inhibitions, or other clues to the care necessary to treat the patient.

Beyond the language barriers that exist, cultural barriers also affect certain patients’ ability to be treated for medical issues. In certain Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, patients are prohibited from being treated or touched by a medical professional of the opposite sex. The communications methods being introduced here provide wider channels to account for these cultural nuances, and improved technology is aiding health care providers in pursuit of a better way to serve limited English proficiency (LEP) patients.

Many facets of the medical profession are switching over to the digital arena. For example, electronic records are much more commonplace, and providers are now able to access a patient’s medical account and immediately know that they are not a native English speaker. Technology now allows for doctors to press a button, and automatically connect to a video conference with a language service provider. Gone are the days when a patient waited hours to be treated until a translator could be brought in, or had to deal with the confusion and misunderstanding common with dial-in medical care. With video conferencing, a language specialist can provide assistance within seconds. This updated model streamlines the process for doctors and patients alike, but beyond its time efficiency, this method is also safer and more comfortable for all parties.

Remarkably, the shift in technology is resulting in better care for LEP patients. Rather than dealing with the frustrations of a doctor who cannot understand their patients’ needs, video conferencing abilities afford the luxury of a face-to-face conversation between a patient and a provider who speaks their language. The increase in number of specialists providing care results in an amplified need to share patient information across the board. With English-speaking patients, it is easy for doctors to ask the patient directly for additional medical information, but with LEP patients, there is a greater risk of miscommunication, and therefore misinformation. Since physicians must often rely on information provided by their patients, ensuring that this feedback is not lost in translation will result in better all-around healthcare. 


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