Novant Health using video remote interpreters to make it easier for health professionals to communicate with patients with a language barrier

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Many people don’t think twice about being able to tell a nurse or a doctor why they’re not feeling well, but for people who don’t speak English fluently, it’s not so easy.

“We have a number of patients who are Spanish speaking primarily and they come to us for help. I speak some Spanish and it's pretty good, but there are times when I'm limited in regards to what information I'm able to understand,” said Dr. Terrance Johns, an internal medicine physician with Novant Health Thomasville Associates.

Novant Health is using video remote interpreters to make it easier for health professionals to communicate with patients despite a language barrier.

Medical professionals use an iPad equipped with technology that allows them to select various languages, including American Sign Language.

Once the patient’s preferred language is selected, an interpreter appears on the screen to help both the medical professional and the patient address important questions.

Johns says the technology has been beneficial especially compared to what was used previously.

“We had a telephone that we would bring into the room. There would be an interpreter on the other end of the telephone and we would sit the telephone down on a computer table and we would just listen through telephone, and that was not so effective. It was clumsy and it was awkward,” Johns said.

Johns says the video feature and better audio quality have made for a seamless experience.

The response has been positive among both patients and staff.

“I have a man and wife who are both deaf patients and we use that a lot with them because they use American Sign Language and they love it,” nurse Crystal Vest said.

The video interpreting service is available at some Novant Health clinics in Thomasville and Forsyth County.