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Top 5 Best Practices in Using Over-the-Phone Interpretation for Healthcare

Over-the-Phone Interpretation for Healthcare

Written by Bernadine Racoma

June 24, 2020

Over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) is becoming an essential service for many healthcare facilities to help patients with limited English language proficiency (LEP), especially now due to the pandemic. The phone interpreter can be within a room in the facility, in a call center or any other remote facility. The service provider gives the subscriber a list of language codes and a subscriber ID to access the system.

OPI service is budget-friendly. Subscribers pay only for the actual length of the time they use the service. The service does not have a minimum charge. Most providers charge by the minute. The charging starts when the subscriber starts to speak with the interpreter.

With the capacity to provide interpretation services over the phone, the patient and the interpreter do not need face-to-face contact. They automatically practice social distancing, which is necessary to observe at this time of COVID-19.

Skills of over-the-phone interpreters

The requirements to work as an over-the-phone interpreter vary. Aside from phone interpreting skills, many hospitals require the same skill set as on-site interpreters. A commercial service provider may offer extensive training programs and provide proprietary materials, glossaries, and in-house training manuals. They may likewise give you a structured certification program.

For the healthcare industry, it is best if the phone interpreter has field experience and training in medical and allied healthcare services. Medical interpreting requires specialization, as knowledge in the subject and its terminology is vital.

A phone interpreter should have a clear speaking voice in both languages. The patient and the doctor should be able to understand the interpreter in the source or target language without a heavy accent, mumbling, or very soft or loud voice.

They should be skilled at managing the flow of conversation and external barriers, including background sounds, distracting noises, phone line interference, and poor sound quality. A good phone interpreter should also have excellent note-taking skills for clarification, completeness, and accuracy of the translation.

OPI clients

Over-the-phone interpreting services are not only useful for medical interpreting. A variety of industry sectors benefit from it, particularly those that need multiple languages to serve their clients. OPI is very easy to use, and access is almost immediate. It does not require special tools. The service is available around-the-clock and handles standard languages, as well as obscure and rare languages. You can request industry-specific interpreters according to your line of business when subscribing to the service.

Industries that can benefit from OPI service include:

  • Healthcare and medical
  • Legal
  • Court systems
  • Retail
  • Call centers
  • Government agencies
  • Educational institutions
  • Nonprofits
  • Social services
  • Manufacturing

OPI best practices in the healthcare setting

The law requires all healthcare facilities receiving federal government funding to provide free language access in the 15 most spoken languages in the communities they serve. It is expensive to hire on-site linguists, and it may be challenging to find a face-to-face interpreter for a specific language in an emergency.

The best option for most healthcare facilities is to subscribe to a telephone interpreting service that can handle obscure and rarely used languages. The service is often offered remotely, and the access is on a per-need basis. This means that the facility accesses the service only when a patient has limited English language skills.

The service will be most effective and practical if the doctors, nurses, and other users in the medical field know how to use over-the-phone interpreting services. Here are some of the best practices we suggest:

Provide proper documentation

Healthcare facilities should prepare for Section 1557 compliance reviews and other compliance issues by giving the interpreter the time to greet the calling party and give their Interpreter ID number for record purposes.

Provide a brief explanation

For the smooth flow of communication, provide the interpreter with the nature of the call. The phone interpreter knows medical terminology, as well as an expert in a specific subject. The healthcare provider should give the interpreter a summary of the reason for the call and patient situation so that the interpreter can tailor the conversational tone according to the patient’s needs.

Allow the interpreter and patient to introduce themselves

LEP patients tend to be shy, especially when meeting or talking to a stranger for the first time. Give the patient time to settle and feel that they connect with someone. Allow them to do their introductions in the patient’s language so that they will feel more comfortable.

Speak to the patient directly

The phone interpreting session will be more effective if the provider speaks to the patient directly. The provider should conduct the conversation naturally as if the interpreter is not present. Maintaining eye contact with the patient is vital. The phone interpreter will listen attentively and provide an accurate translation of your message in the proper tone of voice.

Use short but complete sentences

Phone interpreting uses the consecutive interpreting method. While the provider is speaking to the LEP patient, the interpreter is taking notes. Use brief but complete sentences in simple terms that are easier to understand and translate, even if the interpreter understands medical terminology. Pause after a short sentence and give the interpreter the time to translate and relay your message to the patient before you continue. Please refrain from using highly technical terms, unless they are necessary.

Contact Us – Our over-the-phone interpreters are available 24/7, 365 days of the year

You do not have to wait for an interpreter to be available. Subscribe to our over-the-phone interpreting services. We’ll provide you with fast, high-quality, professional, budget-friendly, and topic-expert OPI services when and where you need them. Whether you’re in a clinic, hospital, adult care facility, or medical insurance organization, rely on the OPI interpreters of eTranslation Services to be there for you every day of the year, around-the-clock. Please get in touch with us through email at contact@etranslationservices.com or call us at (800) 882-6058.

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