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 video remote interpreting (VRI).
The use of video remote technology has expanded access to ASL interpreters in many medical facilities and there are now various VRI companies to choose from. However, 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 are not nationally certified, the fallout can be life threatening for Deaf patients. So the question becomes: how do you choose the best VRI company to serve Deaf patients at your medical facility?
Here is a checklist 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, immediately remove them from your list of consideration. Using an interpreter who is certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) provides assurance that the interpreter is following the Code of Professional Conduct developed by RID and the National Association for the Deaf (NAD), and includes seven ethical tenants including confidentiality and neutrality.
- Does the VRI company specialize in medical interpreting? In the medical environment, a specialist offers patients peace-of-mind because they know they are working with a doctor who has expertise in a particular area or is dedicated to a specific field. The same is true for interpreters. VRI companies that offer VRI services solely for medical environments hire interpreters who specialize in medical interpreting. These medical interpreters have a great deal more experience and training than generalist interpreters. If a VRI company splits its focus to serve different industries, chances are their interpreters do also.
- See a demo of the VRI platform and review the technology that powers it. 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-hour, 365-days-a-year tech support.
- Do they offer training, not only on their products and services, but also on 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 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 who 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 company 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.
This checklist will help you fully 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 who also specialize in medical interpreting
- Employs trilingual interpreters and CDIs
If any of the companies you’re considering don’t satisfy all of the above criteria, they can be eliminated as a potential vendor. Hiring the best VRI company you can find ensures that patients receive exceptional communication services and hospitals fulfill their obligations, all while providing great patient care.
Site translation by Certified Deaf Interpreter Steven Stubbs.