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Hospitals Using Interpreter Technology to Break Down Language Barriers

Young woman physician with stethoscope prescribing treatmentThere are approximately 110 million emergency room visits annually, but new technology may be able to help break down language barriers that make those visits difficult for some patients.

In the pediatrics floor of Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama, there’s always at least one Martti.

Martti is the mobile video chat language interpreter used by the hospital to help medical staff communicate with non-English speaking patients and their families.

Comprised of a small television-like screen atop a long pole with wheels attached, Martti is a national language interpreter service specializing in health care interpretation services.

With a few simple taps of the screen, doctors and other medical staff can connect to a live interpreter who communicates to the patient.

The service provides interpretations in more than 200 languages, including American Sign Language. Not only that, but it is operational 24 hours a day, every day.

Pediatrics nurse Robyn Rhodes said that occasionally an English-speaking friend or family member will accompany a patient, but that ultimately Martti is the best method of communication.

“This breaks down the barrier and allows us to get a really good medical history and explanation of what is going on,” she explained.

While an incredible innovation, Helen Keller Hospital isn’t the only medical facility looking to make positive changes.

In an interview with UCLA’s U Magazine, Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and CEO of UCLA Hospital System, spoke about her future plans for the institution.

She spoke first about the level of support that UCLA Health already has in the LA community, and the high hopes she has for the future of the institution.

She also commented on the Affordable Care Act and recalled what an “exciting time” it is to be involved in health care right now.

When asked what larger opportunities UCLA’s position presented, Spisso said, “They are multifold … Going forward, we continue our efforts to make health care more affordable and eliminate inefficiency and waste, while improving the experiences and outcomes for our patients and families.”

She continued to discuss the leadership role that UCLA takes in the community, and that some of their primary training consists of staff training and focusing on how to create a better patient experience.

And a better patient experience is what professionals who are using Martti are all about.

Rhodes, who also works in the hospital nursery, said Martti sees significant use with new parents to communicate care instructions, return appointment dates, and other follow-up instructions.

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