Remote Interpretation Technology

Telehealth Interpretation: Virtual Healthcare Language Support

Telehealth transformed the healthcare industry in 2022. Learn about the next part of the virtual revolution: telehealth interpretation | Boostlingo


Doctors are embracing telehealth as a tool to expand patient access. Merrie dives into what virtual means for healthcare systems in 2022.

In a recent survey by the Center for Connected Medicine called “Top of Mind for Top Health Systems,” providers surveyed were asked “What problem in health care has the greatest potential to be improved with digital health technology and innovation?” The top answer? Patient access.

Male black patient talking on conference video call to female african doctor. Virtual therapist consulting young man during online appointment on laptop at home. Telemedicine chat, telehealth meeting for virtual healthcare interpretation

Since 2019, Medicare Advantage plans have allowed for telehealth visits, but in 2019 as few as 8% of patients had taken advantage of telehealth despite 66% saying they would be open to telehealth visits. Jumpstarted by the pandemic, the number of patients who have now adopted telemedicine jumped drastically. As early as June of 2020, a Doctor.com survey found 50% of 1800 patients surveyed had used telemedicine in the past three months.

What do these numbers mean for healthcare providers?

Increasing demand for 100% virtual solutions is being driven by both providers and patients. The same Center for Connected Medicine study showed that 74% of systems are likely to see investment in patient access technology in the next year. In order to meet patient quality of care expectations, systems will have to adapt to this changing marketplace. 

97% of physicians reported treating at least some patients who have difficulty understanding English.

As more visits are conducted virtually, providers will need to have secure, compliant interpretation solutions for the virtual environment. Doctors are dedicated to increasing patient access through telehealth — language access through virtual healthcare interpretation is crucial to reaching more patients.

Security expectations during the pandemic

The US Health & Human Services Office (HHS) has issued temporary permission for providers to use a wider range of video conferencing technology during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. For many systems, the sudden pivot in 2020 meant patchwork telehealth solutions through existing conferencing systems. While these are technically allowed under the emergency permissions, long-term solutions will need to be HIPAA compliant, secure telehealth environments.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has put together a toolkit for providers to step into the telehealth world. In this toolkit, CMS tells providers to enter business associate agreements (BAAs) that are HIPAA compliant in connection with video communication products.

An important part of those video communication agreements is virtual healthcare interpretation. Many systems or healthcare providers fall into a gray zone of not having a high enough volume to require a fulltime interpreter, but still needing to provide healthcare interpretation regularly. Those in this area will likely choose to enter into a BAA with a language service provider for interpretation.

Any language service provider also needs to guarantee the security of patient information. Solutions like Boostlingo are convenient for HIPAA compliance because they provide both interpretation and video conference services in one secure virtual room. 

What does virtual healthcare interpretation look like for providers?

Also included in the CMS toolkit is a list of common ways to introduce an interpreter to a healthcare appointment. These include:

  • Securely including the interpreter in a virtual video room
  • Keeping the provider and patient on video, with the interpreter on speaker phone
  • Holding a 3-way telephone call with the provider, patient, and interpreter (over the phone)

Providers can save costs by choosing a language service provider who can get patients and doctors connected in all three ways. An interpretation platform like Boostlingo can handle both over-the-phone interpreting (OPI) and video-remote interpreting (VRI).  

The Bottom Line

Even before the pandemic, surveys showed that most people were interested in using telehealth. Now, the number of people actually booking those telehealth appointments has grown to reflect that interest. 83% of patients expect to use telehealth after the pandemic.

Especially for routine appointments like prescription refills, providers will be expected to provide virtual options even after the public health emergency fades. As a provider looking to attract the top talent and expand patient access, a successful telehealth game plan will include a virtual healthcare interpretation component. 

How did telehealth change your workplace in 2021? Let me know in the comments!

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