Did you know that a medical translator is not the same as a medical interpreter? Healthcare translations are text-based materials that you can provide to clients, such as a brochure, fact sheet or video. Even if the video is recorded, it is based on a script that has been translated from the original version. A medical interpreter, on the other hand, helps facilitate communication during a medical appointment (you can learn more about interpreting on our Interpreting Services page). This could be a consultation, surgery, physical therapy session or any number of other health-related appointments. A medical interpreter has the healthcare experience as well as the language skills needed to help both the patient and provider communicate and be understood.
Safely Including an Interpreter
Having a medical interpreter available has always been an important part of giving and receiving quality care. We’ve heard from some of the professional interpreters that we work with that in the face of COVID-19, they are actually receiving fewer calls as part of people’s attempts at social distancing. Social distancing is an important strategy in helping prevent further spread of COVID-19, and is otherwise generally necessary in cases where patients’ immune systems are compromised. Legislation passed in the US in response to COVID-19, for example, increases access to remote healthcare options for people on Medicare, who were previously ineligible for these services in most cases. And since patients on Medicare are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19, the ability to speak with a doctor without going to a doctor’s office can protect them from contracting the disease (or protect others in the doctor’s office from contracting it if the person on Medicare is already sick).
Just like more and more doctors, more and more interpreters can work in remote settings. Often times consumers can contract the services of an interpreter in three different ways: in-person or on-site, over-the-phone, and video remote. The second two can be excellent options for a variety of reasons, including social distancing. Remote interpreting can also help address cost concerns, as well as cases in which the interpreter or client is not able to travel to be in the same place as the other party.
Selecting an Interpretation Method
Any of these three methods of interpreting can typically be used in any situation, though of course we always recommend one over another depending on the circumstances. We typically advise that a medical interpreter be on-site if possible, for reasons such as not needing to rely on technology and the more personal nature of this job. Mercy Clinic, which has locations in St. Louis, MO where Language Solutions is based, confirmed at the end of March that they will continue to allow medical interpreters to work in their facilities. As long as a safe distance can be maintained, in-person interpreting may still best serve a patient’s needs. Video remote interpreting, however, can also be a good alternative. When the health of the patient or interpreter may be compromised, video remote interpreting can provide a virtual face-to-face experience that allows the patient and healthcare professional to communicate.
Many interpreters are video remote ready. People need not forego the services of an interpreter, including a medical interpreter, in order to avoid close contact with others. If you are in need of an interpreter for a medical consultation or other meeting, let us know the details and we can advise you about the availability of an interpreter who can help.