Site translation by Certified Deaf Interpreter Steven Stubbs.
Interpreting services are a necessity in medical environments for Deaf patients. The quality of their care depends on clear and effective communication and interpreters help make that happen. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 outlines the legal obligations hospitals must follow to provide effective communication for patients. One avenue for accessibility is using sign language interpreters. Those interpreters can be offered in one of two ways, on-site and remotely through the use of a video remote interpreting (VRI).
The use of video remote technology has expanded access to ASL interpreters for many medical facilities and there are now a number of VRI companies to choose from. Yet, all VRI companies are not created equal and vendor services may not understand what sets one VRI company apart from another. If a VRI company uses interpreters who are not familiar with medical terminology and not nationally certified, the fallout can be life threatening for Deaf patients. So the question becomes, how does one choose the best VRI company for medical facilities and Deaf patients? What follows is a check list to help medical providers evaluate VRI companies and ultimately select the best option for their patients.
- Does the VRI company exclusively use nationally certified interpreters? If not, then immediately remove them from your list of consideration. Using an interpreter who is certified by the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), provides assurance that the interpreter is following a national Code of Professional Conduct, which includes upholding confidentiality and neutrality.
- Does the VRI company specialize in medical interpreting? In the medical environment, a specialist offers a patient peace-of-mind knowing they are working with a doctor who has expertise in a particular area or who is dedicated to a specific field. The same is true for interpreters. VRI companies that offer VRI services only for medical environments hire interpreters who ‘specialize’ in medical interpreting. These interpreters have a great deal more experience and training than ‘general practice’ interpreters. If a VRI company splits its focus, chances are so do their interpreters.
- Be sure to review the VRI platform! The VRI company you select should have state-of-the art technology, elite video conferencing software and user-friendly interfaces to make the communication experience efficient and effortless. The company should also provide dedicated 24/7, 365 days a year tech support.
- Do they offer training on not only their products and services, but also the Deaf and hard of hearing communities you will be serving? Medical professionals and support staff who may not be familiar with the technology or Deaf culture will need some education and training with the new VRI program. Some basic knowledge and understanding can go a long way in reducing the stress and anxiety for patients and build trust between provider and patient.
- Do they have trilingual, medically certified interpreters that can work with Deaf patients? If so, you’ve struck gold! Regardless of whether an interpreter is needed for the patient or a supportive friend or family member, it’s important to also have spoken language, medically specialized interpreters available to work side by side with the ASL interpreter. VRI companies should be as linguistically diverse as the consumers they serve.
- Ask the VRI companies if they are familiar with CDIs and if they employ them. If the answer is no, you can cross them off your list. Just as Deaf patients have diverse linguistic families, Deaf people have diverse linguistic needs of their own. VRI companies that are committed to providing excellent interpreting services should be familiar and employ certified deaf interpreters (CDI). A CDI is a trained professional with a unique skill set to work with Deaf people who have limited American Sign Language (ASL) skills or with Deaf people when ASL is not their first language. CDIs work in conjunction with ASL interpreters to ensure the patient understands his or her medical situation.
There you have it, a set of criteria to help you vet the VRI companies you’re considering. In short, you want a company that: only works with certified interpreters, specializes in medical interpreting, uses state of the art technology and provides 24/7 tech support, provides training to medical staff about Deaf culture and working with interpreters, offers multiple spoken language interpreters that also specialize in medical interpreting, employs trilingual interpreters and CDIs. If any of the companies you’re considering don’t satisfy all of the previously mentioned services, they can be eliminated as a potential vendor. Hiring the best ensures that patients receive exceptional communication services and hospitals fulfill their obligations, all while providing great patient care.