Since 1975, the U.S. has served as home to over 2.5 million refugees, accepting more immigrants than all refugee-friendly countries combined. Not to mention, the majority of these residents speak little to no English, making language barriers more common than ever before. As a result, the Joint Commission issued a compliance ruling in 2011 and overtook the monitoring of hospitals across the country to ensure that they remain in compliance with the law and provide language services to patients.
Despite the law, many healthcare systems have reported difficulties with remaining in compliance, according to officials at Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) company Stratus Video Interpreting. In an effort to protect healthcare systems with meeting compliance standards and increasing equal language access, Stratus offers healthcare systems a solution: VRI interpreting simplifies communication and cuts costs without sacrificing service.
Almost 100 percent of hospitals receive visits from Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients daily, and while the problems in treating these patients comprise several factors, cost is the problem. In fact, the average U.S. hospital spends nearly $1 million a year on language services. Although language services are available, they are underutilized because they are difficult to access, leading providers to sometimes communicate with LEP patients using methods such as hand signals and informal interpreters such as the patients’ own family members. In addition, the issue is exacerbated for hospitals which fail to provide language services, offering a potential segue to malpractice lawsuits imposed by governing agencies for noncompliance, according to Stratus Video CEO Sean Belanger.
However, the challenges faced by healthcare facilities can be eliminated by combining the benefits of face-to-face interpreting with on-demand interpreting. “With the correct technology in place, healthcare operations will become more streamlined as a nation,” Belanger said. “The diversity of the U.S. population demands a solution, and it’s Stratus’ mission to break down language barriers for every resident.”
According to Stratus, VRI technology reduces costs by 80 percent. The foundation of VRI is that it combines high quality face-to-face interpreting with the affordability of on-demand interpreting, allowing its users to get interpreters for patients 24/7. The company’s services complement existing language services with the ability to be loaded onto any PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. The application cuts interpreting costs by negating the need for an interpreter to travel to a location and increases access to language services, ensuring that every citizen has equal access to healthcare.
In its effort to assist hospitals in compliance while reducing malpractice suits due to interpreting errors, Stratus upholds the standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for protecting patient data by ensuring that all essential security measures are in place.
Noncompliance with both federal and state laws leaves healthcare systems open to lawsuits. Both the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 state that deaf/hard of hearing and limited English proficiency patients must be provided with meaningful language access via either on site, over the phone, or video remote interpretation. “The absence of an effective interpretation solution leaves the health system at risk. An effective solution should be available at all times,” said Belanger.
Keeping costs low is important for providing quality service efficiently, according to David Fetterolf, president of Stratus Video. “On site interpretation is the most expensive, seeing as there are often session minimums and the providers are expected to pay for interpreter travel time. Video Remote Interpretation charges by the minute, ensuring that every moment the interpreter is on the line is being used efficiently. Ultimately, it comes down to quality patient care regardless of primary language.”
Currently, there is a $2 billion market shift from on site and over the phone interpreting to video remote interpreting. Fetterolf added, “The shift to video remote interpreting is natural and inevitable. In five years we will likely see VRI systems set up in every hospital, court room, police station and government office.”