Physicians and nurses at Cape Regional Medical Center are knocking down language barriers between them and patients in new ways, thanks to new technology that connects patients in real time with interpreters via the internet, a hospital official said.

Known as “InDemand Video Remote Interpreting,” or VRI, the service is free to patients and families, said Raymond Wisniewski, director of patient experience at Cape Regional Health System.

“Previously interpretation was accomplished over the telephone,” Wisniewski said. “Now it is a live video chat and, at the request of the patient, we can conference families into the call who may be out of the area.”

Interpreters are medically-trained and connections to VRI can be made on tablets, iPads and portable carts that can be wheeled into a patient’s room, he said.

The service is available 24 hours a day, and provides hospital staff, patients and families with access to interpreters across more than 200 languages, including American Sign Language, Spanish, French, Polish and Russian.

“The system is used daily,” Wisniewski said. “All types of care and all areas are included – inpatient, outpatient, registration, maternity, emergency, cancer and surgery.”

And though the conversation held through the use of the internet, a series of firewalls protect patient confidentiality.

“There are no security risks,” he said. “All necessary precautions are taken to ensure the patient’s privacy as when a patient is speaking face to face with a physicians or provider. There is a privacy curtain that can be enabled if the patient does not what to be seen by the interpreter.”

Patients are can choose male or female interpreters, and the interpreters are both medically trained and certified.

“InDemand is the first language services provider to become an official testing site for both the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters,” Wisniewski said. “They meet all the qualifications for the Affordable Care Act.”

Cape Regional Health System is a Penn Medicine Cancer Network affiliate and a clinical affiliate of Penn Medicine for cardiac care, orthopaedic care and vascular care.