One in five people in the United States speak a language other than English at home and 41% of these individuals, or 25.1 million people, are considered limited English proficient (LEP). Over the past two decades, this population has increased 15%, and by 2020, the U.S. will become the largest Spanish speaking country in the world. To address the growing needs of this population, healthcare organizations, including Baylor Scott & White, are prioritizing the need to eliminate communication barriers between patients and clinicians. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) technology is one solution addressing the need to reduce disparities across the continuum of care. Many hospitals and healthcare systems are adopting VRI to provide clinicians with instant access to medically trained interpreters.
Baylor Scott & White is a not-for profit healthcare system in Texas and one of the largest in the United States. The system has 48 hospitals, more than 1,000 patient access points, and over 44,000 employees. Baylor University Medical Center recently implemented VRI across its health system for both LEP and deaf patients, providing access to an interpreter within seconds.
HMT spoke with Joe Valenzuela, Director of Support Services at Baylor University Medical Center who gave us more insight into VRI technology and how it’s being used at the medical center. He explained that there are five to six LEP people in the hospital each day, who previously had trouble communicating with hospital staff. The implementation of VRI has improved patient care tremendously. Doctors and patients are reaching treatment plans quicker, patients are more compliant, and community health workers are following up with them outside of the hospital to ensure they stick to the instructions they received when leaving the hospital.
Valenzuela also explained the VRI service takes into account the patient experience by offering a male or female interpreter, privacy screen, or chat feature where instructions in a targeted language are available for patients to write down if needed. The technology also allows for three different languages to be used at once, if needed (for family members of the patients to be involved in their care). Four years ago there were 14 languages available, now there are 20 with almost 24-hour coverage. If a patient speaks a language other than the 20 offered, staff members have the ability to utilize a voice-over option on the laptop/iPad devices which offers 120 spoken languages.
When we asked Valenzuela about the financial savings from VRI he told us that Baylor has been saving money while increasing quality of care and improving patient safety. The benefits go beyond financial; this technology has helped staff to communicate with patients and their loved ones, providing a powerful cure for communication gaps for LEP patients.
Source: Baylor Scott & White Health