Soupany Saignaphone is a strategic account executive with LanguageLine Solutions.
It was April 20 and we were fully in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis. I was at University of Colorado Health, helping deploy our Interpreter on Wheelsvideo solution and doing some live troubleshooting. I was thinking to myself, “Do I really need to be out here at a hospital in the middle of a pandemic?”
It was then that Michael Clarkson, who is Regional Supervisor of Interpretive Services at UCHealth, asked me a question.
In this era of COVID-19, things are happening fast and furious. Care that might have been taken to provide meaningful language access to limited-English speakers, may no longer seem feasible.
The unfortunate reality is that ethnic minorities have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. North America is unique in its multiculturalism. One out of five residents speaks a language other than English at home, while eight percent of U.S. adults are considered limited-English proficient. We all interact, and for us to move forward, all communities must be healthy and safe – not just those that speak English.
This breakthrough service gives healthcare providers the much-needed ability to invite professional, medically trained language interpreters into their telemedicine sessions. As a result, telehealth is now available to all patients, regardless of language, culture, or ability.
This advancement affirms LanguageLine's commitment to being the world’s leading provider of interpretation for telemedicine.
We search the world over for the finest linguists to join our team of more than 17,000 interpreters and translators. We always say that LanguageLine is a communications company that is enabled by technology. We are human at our core, and our linguists are our heartbeat.
One of our brilliant interpreters, Christina Herold, reached out recently. She asked if our interpreters could say something to the public with whom they’ve been working so closely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the challenges the COVID-19 crisis presents is the inability for healthcare providers to communicate with the patients’ loved ones, as they are generally not allowed to visit the hospital in person. Doctors and other caregivers must now remotely communicate with families by phone or video, which can become extra-complicated when the family member does not speak English.
Fortunately this obstacle can be easily resolved. Whether using phone or video, there are several ways for caregivers to incorporate an interpreter into calls with loved ones who are not at the hospital.
The coronavirus epidemic has forced a sudden migration to distance learning for students across the globe.
North America is particularly diverse and its educators have been faced with a unique challenge: communicating remotely with a student (or parent) who speaks limited English. This is a significant issue, as one in five U.S. residents speaks a language other than English at home.
Accomplishing this requires school personnel to solve the technology challenge of adding an interpreter to their video conferences for online learning.
There is good news for educators who have asked in recent weeks about adding interpreters on video conferences as part of remote education. It is completely do-able!
Until recently, accessing an interpreter was typically done in one of two ways. Either an interpreter physically joined an onsite meeting, or individuals in the same location (like a doctor and a patient) would use their phone or a video conference to bring an interpreter into the conversation.
Today’s environment and the growing need for language support have some people perplexed. How can they incorporate an interpreter if all three parties (for example, the doctor, the patient, and the interpreter) are in three different locations? Is this even possible?
Yes, it is possible. In fact, there are two easy ways to access an interpreter that are equally simple, even if all three parties are all in different locations.
New York City has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in America. Within the city, Queens is the most linguistically diverse borough in the city, with over 160 languages spoken. Within Queens you have several hospitals, which many of us have seen featured on the news because of the record number of patients who have died there.
The evening of March 24, the language-access champion from one of these hospitals sent me a message asking me to call her. When I did she said, “Please, Lulu, can you come and help me? I really need to get the video (interpreting) devices that we just ordered ready. This is a disaster. We are swamped and on top of everything my boss got COVID-19 and he is in the ICU and I’m scared.”
Lesly, 41, is a Spanish-speaking mother from Waltham, Mass. She lost her healthcare along with her office-cleaning job at the end of March.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, she talked of how her body is racked with symptoms of COVID-19. She has not been tested because her doctor told her she needed to have health insurance.
The fact is that tests for the coronavirus illness are free for uninsured people under a federal law passed last month, but Lesly – who like 8 percent of the adult population living in the United States is limited-English proficient – has struggled to get accurate information.
“I’m very scared,” she said through an interpreter. “I don’t know if I’m going to wake up tomorrow and feel worse. A family down the street, the whole family is infected.”
Lesly’s story is reflective of a hard truth that is emerging across the U.S. Hispanics, and multicultural Americans in general, are being impacted by the coronavirus far more than the average American. Communication failures are partially to blame, creating a weak link in the chain that will likely impact the health and safety of all U.S. citizens.