June 12, 2019

Northern Health trials interpreting via tablets

As part of our HRO-Trusted Care transformation, Northern Health teams are working on numerous projects with the aim to improve patient experience.

One of these projects is the ‘Video Interpreting via Portable Device’ trial, which aims to look at options of delivering quick video interpreting services on demand, whilst improving patient experience by reducing the interpreter waiting time.

“The idea behind video interpreting is now we have the technology to be able to deliver interpreting services via video. The timing is quite good, as the hospital is expanding and it takes a considerable amount of time for interpreters to go back and forth different areas,” says Emiliano Zucchi, Manager Transcultural & Language Services and Aboriginal Support Unit.

“Sometimes, a doctor or a nurse needs an interpreter just for a minute or two. For these situations, we are trialling video interpreting, as it’s a safe mode of delivery – quick, effective, as well as cost efficient,” he adds.

Stefania Zen, Cultural Liason Officer leading the project with Emiliano, says the team has identified they can use apps on tablets and trial two different apps to deliver interpreting services.

“At the moment, we are trialling this service in the maternity ward, because we get a lot of requests for interpreting last minute from that area. We have an iPad in the maternity ward for clinicians to use with a patient, and on our end we have a laptop. The request first comes through the phone at this stage, as wards call to check availability for certain languages,” she explains.

“We had a situation when we were called from the delivery suite. The clinicians needed an emergency consent for a caesarean and the video was the perfect solution. All they needed to do was to press a button on the iPad and the interpreter responded in seconds. Both the patient and the clinicians were happy with the immediate response,” Stefania explains.

Initially, the team was thinking to trial just Arabic, but they saw the demand for video interpreting for other languages as well, so the trial was expanded. So far, the team has done videos for Arabic, Vietnamese and Nepali. This way, the project includes different interpreters, and different feedback can be obtained for the trial progress.

In the future, the team are hoping to have planned appointments via video for appointments they cannot deliver face to face.

“At the moment, it takes us 15 minutes to walk to the tower and 15 minutes to come back, and having the video is more efficient. Video also has a huge advantage compared to the phone, as the visual aspect is fundamental. We are not just interpreting words, but also body language, sound, gesture and the video allows us do that satisfactorily,” Stefania explains.

Ideally, the team would like to connect to other campuses over time.

“There are languages where we have just one interpreter per language and sometimes the interpreter needs to travel for just one appointment to another campus. We do offer telephone interpreting for those situations, and in these scenarios with other campuses, the video would be ideal,” Stefania explains.

Emiliano adds that investing in video will not replace face-to-face interpreting, it will be a modern, time-saving option.

“It’s a complementary service. The demand and the need for interpreters is such that we need to explore all avenues to be able to meet the demand and guarantee access to services for all patients, regardless of their background,” he explains.

Video interpreting is not something Northern Health hasn’t trialled before.

“We were the first health service in Victoria, maybe even Australia, to trial video interpreting in 2009. The difference now is we are effectively trialling the on-demand systems. A lot of literature suggests that video would be a good solution for appointments up to 15-30 minutes, longer ones would still need to be delivered face to face,” Emiliano explains.

Stefania is certain this model could be successfully implemented during home visits too, especially during shorter appointments, and is looking into possibilities for the future.

The current trial will last for three weeks, and the team has delivered eight sessions of video interpreting in the first week, all of which have been well received, both from clinicians and patients.

To be able to implement this project fully, while maintaining patient and information confidentiality during video interpreting, investments in infrastructure would be necessary in the near future. The interpreters require a soundproof room to work from, which enables them to focus on the patient and the interpreting process. These investments would not only improve the experience for our multicultural patients, but for our dedicated interpreters as well.