Phone Interpretation Services for Medical and Dental Offices

Providing interpretation services is crucial for medical visits in the hospital, doctor’s, and dentist’s offices. Thanks to technological advances, patients no longer have to wait for interpreters to travel and arrive on-site for visits; they can call in over the phone or video to receive a live interpretation that helps healthcare visits run smoothly.

What is Over the Phone Interpretation (OPI)?

Phone interpretation services involve a three-way call between two parties and a professional interpreter. Phone interpreters can work on location in the same building or office as one of the parties or interpret the call from a remote location.

OPI is a consecutive interpretation service for verbal communication. The interpreter waits for one party to finish, interprets it, and repeats it as the conversation goes back and forth. This is different than simultaneous interpretation, when the interpreter is speaking at the same time as one of the parties. Interpretation services help healthcare providers bridge communication gaps and help patients better understand crucial medical information.

Interpreting Services in Telemedicine

OPI is a telemedicine service. Telemedicine and telehealth services saw a massive increase in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, encompassing any healthcare service where the parties are not using technology in the same room. The ability for doctors and patients to safely and effectively communicate without being in person was of the utmost importance and continues to be today for its practicality, affordability, and easy access.

The pandemic significantly influenced the increase in demand for telehealth services like phone interpretation services, but it wasn’t the only factor. A focus on cost reduction and industry consolidation, as well as technological improvements, have also contributed to the growth of telemedicine. One report published by Grandview Research valued the telemedicine market at over $70 billion in 2021 and is on track to grow 19% year-over-year until 2033.

The Importance of Professional Interpreters to Overcome Medical Language Barriers

Interpreting services are necessary for healthcare to provide people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) with high-quality healthcare. The 2020 census reported that over 8% of Americans have LEP. By 2050, the census estimates 19% of Americans will have LEP, so the need for services like over-the-phone interpretation will only continue to grow in the near future.

Language barriers are problematic in doctors’ and dentists’ offices. Patients who cannot understand their doctor or nurse may not understand their diagnosis or treatment options. This can lead to confusion or delayed treatment, increasing the chances of the patient experiencing a serious but preventable medical event.

The healthcare industry deals with more sensitive information than perhaps any other industry. And it is crucial to high-quality service that this information is communicated clearly and kept protected. Incomplete or misunderstood information can lead to perplexity, misdiagnosis, delayed or improper treatment, adverse health events, and more.

For people with LEP, being in a doctor’s or dentist’s office can be a confusing and overwhelming setting. Medical terminology is specialized and complex, usually far outside the scope of daily vocabulary. Not understanding a diagnosis can led to fear, frustration, and a loss of trust in the medical system.

And it’s a legal necessity too. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act requires that patients with LEPs must be provided with oral language services free of charge. Since telemedicine is a cost-saving practice, using remote services like over-the-phone interpretation can help healthcare organizations keep costs low while providing patients with the best standard of care. Learn more about how interpretation services can help you comply with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

Benefits of Phone Interpretation Services

There are many benefits to providing interpreting services in medical settings. Not in the least that studies have shown technological advances “improve access and quality of care to LEP persons-more feasible than is widely believed.” These benefits include:

  • Convenience. OPI is done on-demand and remotely, meaning no one has to travel to access an interpreter. Patients can use OPI services whenever needed, whether in the doctor’s office or at home.
  • Better communication. Over-the-phone interpreting services facilitate better communication by expanding language access and ensuring patients understand in their native language what is going on. This increases the efficiency of appointments by reducing back and forth between the patient and the provider.
  • No waiting. With telehealth services, there’s no waiting in a waiting room to see a doctor. And with OPI, there’s no waiting on hold or waiting for someone to arrive in person.
  • Improved outcomes. When patients can clearly communicate their symptoms, medical history, and concerns, they feel heard and supported. When they are able to understand their diagnosis or next steps, it reduces their fear of the unknown. This helps providers make a more accurate diagnosis, provide suitable treatment options, and communicate every step of the way, improving patient confidence and outcomes.
  • Cost-effective. Phone interpretation services are on-demand, so you only pay when needed. Remote interpreting services are more cost-effective than in-person services because interpreters can take calls as they come in rather than visit a location.

Different kinds of interpretation services

Over-the-phone interpretation is just one option for remote interpreting services. Video remote interpretation (VRI) is a similar consecutive interpreting service that is being increasingly adopted as another option, which can facilitate even better understanding between doctor and patient because the interpreter is face-to-face with both parties.

Video remote interpretation is a similar interpreting service to OPI but with the added benefit of the interpreter being able to read body language. There are also cases where VRI would be necessary over OPI, for example, when the patient needs sign language interpretation.

While the pandemic increased demand for remote interpreting services, it also catalyzed more advances in OPI and VRI platforms.

How to Choose an Over-the-Phone Interpreter

There are a few requirements that a good OPI platform must meet to perform well for medical providers.

Qualities of a Professional Interpreting Service

  • Excellent availability, JR Language translation company offers OPI Services that are 24/7
  • Fast response time
  • Qualified staff with subject matter experts who can meet specific requests in a timely manner
  • Works on all commonly used phones
  • Works on mobile
  • Support a range of communication devices from analog to smartphones and PC
  • Supports collaboration platforms like Teams and Zoom

The need for remote interpreting services like over-the-phone interpretation will only continue to grow over the next decade. A key to success and longevity in healthcare organizations is getting a process in place to tap into interpretation services as needed in a timely and cost-effective way.

How does OPI work?

Accessing over-the-phone interpreters is easy when you work with a professional language services provider. When the need for OPI services arises, the organization can access a professional interpreter in minutes. The language company provides a subscriber ID and a list of languages, codes, or numbers to reach a qualified interpreter. Service can be billed on a per-minute basis monthly.

It is an on-demand service. You pay for the minutes you use monthly after signing to have your code and access process.

Language Services: Interpretation vs. Translation

While you may have heard of “phone translation services” this is technically incorrect. Interpretation services are provided for verbal communication. Consecutive interpretation services are needed for live medical visits, recorded videos, phone calls, and any other interaction that deals with the spoken word. Translation services deal with written content and are necessary to translate documents, forms, medical reports, exams, and other documentation to support medical visits.

Ready to add Over phone interpretation or remote video interpretation to your language interpreting services? Working with a professional language services company makes the process smooth and straightforward. JR Language is a language services company( link to translation company) with years of experience helping healthcare organizations with multilingual communications and other language services. Contact us for a quote today— we’d love to learn about your language needs and support your multilingual communications.

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