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How Interpretation is Bridging The Language Gap in Telemedicine

The concept of telemedicine is not new. While there were many attempts to develop telemedicine programs in the 1960s, the inadequate technology made this practice futile. While research and development of telemedicine started in the 1990s, it definitely took the centre stage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarded as the “natural evolution of healthcare in the digital world,” the development of digital technologies and the mandatory social distancing norms of the COVID-19 pandemic popularised telemedicine as the safest interactive system between patients and doctors. While telemedicine was capable of improving healthcare access for hard-to-reach populations, it also showed potential in bridging the communication gap with the help of language experts like medical interpreters and translators.

What is Telemedicine?

As the name suggests, telemedicine is the practice of using technology to deliver healthcare from a distance. In no time, it has taken an integral role in the modern healthcare system.

Telemedicine services typically use a computer, smartphone, tablet, or another mobile device, and they rely on secure video and audio connections. As for the types of services, there is a wide range, including:

A medicare expert in one location can use a telecommunications infrastructure to provide care to a patient at a distant site. It includes all appropriate tools and resources that assist clinicians in reaching and periodically monitoring individuals who have difficulties attending specialist visits, especially patients affected by chronic diseases, who require continuous follow-up. These patients’ health can be assessed by sending the data recorded on the digital tool to a specialist. In addition, telemedicine also helps when two medical experts communicate virtually, for example a general practitioner sending photographs or videos to a specialist for their opinion.

By developing such a digitalised setup, there is no need for patients to wait around in the lobby waiting for an appointment. Instead, they can get a doctor’s opinion without much hassle and expenses. This arrangement also helps hospitals decongest by determining which patients need urgent medical attention and which ones can stay at home and get better with the medication and therapy prescribed by them. So, the hospital staff can now focus on those in dire need.

The cost, time and resources which can be saved due to telemedicine is, therefore, a major part of the appeal.

Types of Telemedicine

Rise of Telemedicine With COVID-19

With the COVID-19 outbreak causing worldwide lockdowns and the fall of conventional health systems due to the lack of either vaccines or effective treatments, telemedicine and e-health applications helped patients virtually communicate with their general practitioners and specialists.

United Kingdom’s NHS 111 approach to the coronavirus diagnosis is an example of telehealth services in action. Patients can access medical advice over the phone, with qualified call handlers advising them on everything, from self-isolating procedures to insights about coronavirus testing.  

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The remote diagnostic procedures have also helped doctors to optimise the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line health workers.

The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, in a survey of roughly 1600 healthcare providers, found that almost 70% were motivated to use more telehealth services because of the experiences they’ve had during the coronavirus pandemic.

Telemedicine Statistics

With these statistics in mind, we can safely assume that telemedicine is here to stay.

Role Of Multilingual Interpretation In Telemedicine

With more and more clinicians and patients relying on telemedicine, it might cause and deepen existing healthcare disparities, such as creating communication barriers for non-English speakers.

No doubt that we are in an era where English is the principal language of modern medicine. While this helps maintain uniformity, patients with limited English proficiency may experience additional communication barriers to engaging with telemedicine.

Despite the attempts made to provide equal access to healthcare for all, most telemedicine-specific platforms have little to no language support for patients who do not speak the national or official language of the country they are residing in.

While telemedicine platforms are proving to be beneficial for many in the pandemic, a considerable fraction of the population isn’t able to participate in these virtual medicare sessions due to the lack of language services.

Most countries are home to domestic populations with more than one native language. Hence, it is crucial that patients must receive the care they need in their primary language. Furthermore, even the most skilled clinician cannot provide high-quality healthcare services to a broad and diverse audience without accurate interpretation by trained and qualified medical interpreters with a working knowledge of medical terminology and medical systems.

Interpreters can provide clear multilingual communication through telemedicine channels by interpreting and translating information for the medical staff and the patient so medical workers can adequately attend to the patient’s symptoms, concerns or questions. While we cannot forget to localise the manuals for telemedicine apps and software, the use of interpreters on the phone and video visits also needs specific attention. Moreover, the optimisation of three-way calling and video medical interpretation is a priority for safety-net healthcare systems to launch their telehealth programs successfully.

In rural populations, telehealth interpreting offers improved care delivery to support positive health outcomes for limited-English proficient patients. Amid a global health crisis, when in-person visits aren’t always safe or viable, the right technology and an experienced interpreter who has command of a wide range of medical terminology are key to ensuring a successful telehealth session.

Language solutions, such as these, not only increase the reach of telehealth services but also create meaningful customer connections.

Hiring Interpreters For Your Telemedicine Sessions

A Checklist For Hiring A Telemedicine Interpretation Service

As a highly skilled and specialised field of work, medical interpretation should only be undertaken by qualified linguists. Besides being fluent in two or more languages, a medical interpreter needs to exhibit a whole range of other skills and attributes. Make sure that you spot these qualities in the Interpretation Service Provider that you select:

Checklist For Telemedicine Interpreter

Conclusion

Telemedicine has not been used traditionally for any public health crises in the past, but that is vigorously changing with the COVID-19 flux. The use of medical interpreters can help to provide telemedicine services to a larger and broader audience. Utilising qualified and professional interpreters to facilitate proper communication between patient-doctor ensures equal access to healthcare for all. In addition, it saves up time, money, and resources to give us hope for a better quality of life.  

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