Treating the Language Barrier

nurse and patient with tabletNo matter where you are from or the language you speak, northern Michigan is a beautiful destination for people to live, work, and play.

And when medical care is needed, language shouldn’t be a barrier to receive and understand the care required. At McLaren Northern Michigan, language barriers can be overcome with the touch of a button. LanguageLine, a video remote interpretation device, utilizes a live interpreter to communicate with a patient and the medical professionals through video phone calls on their proprietary application.

Using iPads affixed to mobile stands, the LanguageLine device can be mobilized to any area of the hospital. The iPad allows for patients and the interpreter to see each other. “When a patient can see the person interpreting, it is a more personal experience, creating clear communication between the patient and medical professional,” stated Kathi St. Pierre, RN, BSN, Clinical Nurse Manager at McLaren Northern Michigan. “It is great for interpreters as well, because they can see facial expressions to determine if the patients are understanding everything or if they need to be clearer.”

At McLaren Northern Michigan, American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish are the most commonly occurring languages. Although colleagues and family members may be tempted to speak to the patient and interpret for them, it is required that all medical information, such as discharge information and diagnosis, must be conveyed by a medically qualified interpreter. With Stratus Video, patients can receive communication in their language immediately, when previously it could take a few hours to have an onsite interpreter arrive. Having a third party interpreter will ensure that patients understand their medical needs and everything that is being said to them. “It is unbiased and HIPAA compliant,” stated St. Pierre. “When family members interpret, they may not provide all the details and information given by the medical professional.”

In addition to ASL, Spanish, and eighteen other languages available via video, LanguageLine has over 200 additional languages available over audio. “It is rare but we have needed interpretation for Mandarin, Portuguese, Tagalog, and several other languages,” said St. Pierre. “We are excited to have this new tool that will help us to provide a more comforting experience to our limited English proficiency patients.”

McLaren Northern Michigan has invested in three LanguageLine programs. Two will be housed in Petoskey and one in Cheboygan.