Your office has just set an appointment for a Deaf patient and now you need to arrange for an American Sign Language interpreter. If this is the first time your office has ever requested an American Sign Language interpreter, it might feel overwhelming, but there are easy ways to ensure you provide a qualified interpreter for your patient.
As with any professional service, there are varying degrees of qualified and there are important identifying qualities that can help you determine the right interpreter for your patient. A professional American Sign Language Interpreter will be nationally certified by the Registry Interpreters for the Deaf. By holding this certification, an interpreter adheres to a code of professional conduct, confidentiality, professionalism, and ethics that protects the integrity of the profession. Further, a qualified interpreter will have medical interpreting experience and training which aides tremendously in providing accurate interpretation for each patient.
When trying to locate a qualified interpreter, there are two potential options. The first is to hire an onsite interpreter through a local referral agency. A quick search on Google for an “American Sign Language referral agency” should yield at least one, if not several agencies, in your community. These agencies contract with dozens of interpreters and will help to determine the best interpreter for each patient while also arranging payment. When contacting an agency, it’s important to request a certified interpreter with medical interpreting experience. Scheduling an onsite interpreter often requires two weeks notice. If a patient needs an appointment sooner and the local agency is not able to schedule an interpreter on short notice, video remote interpreting is an effective alternative.
Video Remote Interpreting
Video remote interpreting (VRI) provides instant access to qualified interpreters via WiFi or broadband internet connection. There are dozens of VRI agencies nationwide that contract with interpreters from states across the country. As with the local referral agencies, it’s important to vet the VRI company and ensure they provide certified, medically experienced interpreters in addition to a few other technological safe guards to ensure a smooth experience for your office and patient. In a recent post, we covered how to select the best VRI company and provided checklist to make the process easier.
How To Decide
By having access to interpreters, locally or via video, it might be hard to know which option is the best for your office and your patients. If your patient is Deaf-Blind/ has low vision, has limited mobility, is scheduled for an appointment with a team of providers at once, or is being seen for a traumatic incident, an onsite interpreter is ideal. However, if the appointment doesn’t fit into any of those circumstances, VRI is a suitable option. We created a decision tree for providers to reference when trying to determine the best route.
Often times a Deaf patient will attend an appointment with a hearing family member or friend. While it might seem like the easiest option to refer to the family member or friend to provide the interpreting services, it’s important to remember the patient’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the responsibilities of the provider to arrange for interpreting services. Just as we want doctors to provide the best possible medical advice and care, we want professional interpreters to provide access to effective communication and enable families and friends of patients to offer support and encouragement.
Working with Deaf patients may take a few extra steps prior to the appointment but once you’ve gotten your feet wet with arranging interpreting services, it will become second nature. Most importantly, Deaf patients will be grateful for your diligence in securing the best interpreters for them at each appointment. This gives them the freedom to focus on their health and not on how they are going to effectively communicate with their medical provider.