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5 Success Factors for Medical Phone Interpreting

Medical Phone Interpreter

It's no secret that good communication is a cornerstone of success in health care.

In our eBook, Language Barriers in Healthcare, we address some common adverse affects caused by language barriers, and solutions to easily overcome those hurdles. One of those solutions is professional medical phone interpreting, which is far from new to the industry.

While many are aware of phone interpreting, we've found that not everybody fully understands whether or not they are using a service that truly benefits their organization. Certain factors can determine the degree to which your phone interpreting provider is helping or hindering your productivity when interacting with limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals.

Take a look at these key success factors for medical phone interpreting, and determine if your phone interpreting solution is indeed adding value.


1) Interpreter Connection Time

Timing is crucial. You cannot afford to sit around waiting to connect with an interpreter to process the LEP patient. Whether the individual is there for a routine check-up, or in need of critical care, a fast interpreter connection is necessary and should be expected from your phone interpreting provider.

If you find that it takes more than 30 seconds to connect to an interpreter, you're losing time, and should reconsider your phone interpreting provider. Top industry connection times average under 10 seconds for Spanish, and under 20 seconds for other major languages.


2) Live Human Operators vs Machine Operators

While there are benefits to both, this usually comes down to a matter of preference. However, live human operators add tremendous value when the healthcare employee does not know exactly what type of interpreting service is needed.

If the language, or specific dialect is unknown, the live operator should be able to help identify the it and quickly connect you to the right interpreter. These situations occur frequently in areas with very diverse populations.


3) Linguistic Expertise of the Interpreters

Just because someone speaks two or three languages, does not mean they are qualified to be a professional interpreter. Interpretation is a skill that must be developed and perfected through intensive training and field experience.

Furthermore, the interpreter should be a native speaker of every language in which they will be working. Dialects, terminology and expressions can vary tremendously in different regions.

French, for example is spoken differently in France than in Canada or Africa. In order to maximize accuracy in communication, the interpreter must be completely fluent in, and native to the languages spoken by all other parties.


4) Technical Expertise of the Interpreters

Just because someone is a native speaker of two or three languages, does not mean they are qualified to be a professional medical interpreter. Given the complexity and technicality of the industry's terminology, your interpreters should be thoroughly trained or educated in U.S. healthcare.

If your are experiencing issues with the technical competence of your interpreters, you should reconsider your phone interpreting provider. A good way to get a sense of this is to ask those using the phone interpreting service on a daily basis. See if they are able to communicate accurately, thoroughly, and efficiently with the interpreters.

The bottom line is that an "okay" service can end up really slowing things down, or even leading to medical errors and lawsuits in more extreme cases.


5) Understanding the Role of the Interpreter

The interpreter is there to facilitate communication across linguistic and cultural gaps. In order to do so effectively, they will sometimes need to step into the conversation for clarification and further explanation.

Due to differences in terminology and expressions, the interpreter may choose to alter the exact wording to ensure that both parties fully understand the matter at hand.

While the interpreter should always express this at the beginning of the conversation, understanding their role will help make the interactions as smooth as possible.


So what should you do if you are not getting the service you should be getting?

  • Identify which factors your phone interpreting provider is not meeting.

  • Determine if these are systemic issues. If so, find a new provider.

  • Clarify your expectations before contracting with your new provider.


Auracom International offers professional translation, interpreting, and localization services in over 200 languages. View our services or contact us directly for more information.

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