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How Remote Observers Communicate with Non-English-Speaking Patients

LEP patient observation

The MedSitter patient observation platform includes pre-recorded messages in more than 60 languages for quick communication with limited English proficiency patients. The MedSitter system was designed with patient safety in mind, and that goes for every patient regardless of their primary language spoken.

The United States is a nation of immigrants and is thus home to an incredible amount of language diversity. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people may not be discriminated against based on nation of origin, with primary language spoken seen as an indicator of national origin. In 2016, the Affordable Care Act included a nondiscrimination provision which built on the 1964 legislation (Source: Stratus Video). Any healthcare institution accepting federal funds is beholden to these laws and must provide language access services to patients with limited English proficiency.  

In order to provide language access services, most healthcare institutions rely on a combination of onsite interpreters, video remote interpreters, and over-the-phone interpreters. Most of the time, an interpreter is used when the two parties that need to speak (i.e. patient and provider) are physically in the same room. MedSitter observers remotely monitor patients 24x7x365, and communication happens as needed rather than on a fixed schedule. If a patient is in a risky situation, say they are about to get out of bed when they require assistance to walk, the remote observer unmutes and starts to re-direct the patient with barely a moment’s notice. It is unreasonable to keep an interpreter on-call for ad hoc communication like that, which is why pre-recorded communication scripts are built into the MedSitter platform in more than 60 languages, including American Sign Language.  

Let’s say an elderly Spanish-speaking patient has to use the bathroom and begins to get out of bed unassisted. The MedSitter observer assigned to this patient does not speak Spanish. Instead of sounding the MedSitter emergency alarm, the observer accesses their library of language prompts and plays a recording for the patient. In Spanish, the recording asks them to stay in bed, and assure them that help is on the way. The observer then places a call to the patient's nurse or nurse aid and alerts them of the patient’s need. In this situation, the observer would have successfully redirected the patient in their own language, creating a pleasant experience for the patient while simultaneously helping them to avoid serious injury.  

In addition, MedSitter observers can construct their own sentences in English and machine translation will play it for the patient in their primary language, opening up communication options for those unique situations that always seem to arise in healthcare. Real-time machine translation, while limited, is incredibly effective in preventing adverse events. 

The MedSitter system was designed with patient safety in mind, and that goes for every patient regardless of their primary language spoken. If you are interested in utilizing MedSitter in your facility, fill out the form on our contact us page now. 

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