Technology Breaks Barriers
In a health care setting, good communication is essential to quality care. Language barriers limit our patients' understanding of their disease and their treatment advice, increasing the risk of complications, and making it harder for doctors to understand symptoms.
Patients who are not fluent or comfortable with English as a primary language make up a large and growing percentage of the patient population at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. To ensure that we provide exceptional care to everyone we serve, we employ a team of medical interpreters trained to facilitate in-person encounters between caregivers and patients. In addition to medical interpreters, who facilitated more than 38,000 encounters in 2015, the hospital also employs technology such as cell phones and tablet computers to ensure every patient has access to an interpreter when they need one.
Through a vendor selected by our staff, video remote interpretation (VRI) provides medical staff access to reliable, face-to-face interpreters in less than 30 seconds. In the first year they were deployed, VRI devices were utilized in 89 encounters, primarily as a backup for sign language interpretation. Given the success and high levels of satisfaction with their use, the demand for VRIs surged to 8,700 encounters in 2015.
As word has spread in the community, an increasing number of limited-English proficient patients are seeking care at Barnes-Jewish.
This mode of communication has proven to be ideal for unexpected communication barriers or emergency situations. VRI is now being implemented at other BJC HealthCare facilities.