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The fast-spreading coronavirus, which has infected more than 8,200 people across the world, has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

Hours earlier, the U.S. confirmed its first human-to-human transmission of the virus, which has killed more than 200 people in China and now has spread to at least 18 other countries.

Reported presentations of the coronavirus have ranged from people being mildly sick to severely ill. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. WHO officials said the coronavirus is transmitted through human contact, in droplets through sneezing, or through touching germs left on inanimate objects.

North American healthcare providers are likely to see an influx of patients - many from international locations - who are concerned they may have the virus. What should physicians do if these potential coronavirus patients do not speak English?

Professional interpreters are available on-demand

Language-services providers like LanguageLine provide on-demand access to professional, medically trained interpreters. In our case, we have a team of more than 11,000 interpreters who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in more than 240 languages.

These interpreters are accessible video or audio formats. The process is extremely user-friendly; in fact, interpreters can easily be reached in 30 seconds or less from a phone, computer, or mobile device.

Many language-services providers, including LanguageLine, are also able to arrange for an in-person interpreter to come to your facility if need be. Likewise, LanguageLine can quickly and accurately translate any written materials you may need converted to another language.

What if my need for an interpreter is urgent?

LanguageLine has a solution for organizations that have a critical, time-sensitive need for an interpreter.

Click here to create an account online. In just minutes, you will have instant access to more than 11,000 interpreters who you can easily reach through a toll-free number or the LanguageLine app. Interpreters can be accessed around the clock in more than 240 languages. Interpretation is available in video and audio formats. 

No sign-up fees or monthly minimums are required. You simply pay as you go.

What if I am having a virtual meeting with my patient?

Given the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus, some healthcare providers are meeting with their patients remotely via video-conferencing platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, Skype, or some telemedicine platforms. Can physicians involve an interpreter on calls like these?

The answer is yes, so long as the platform can place an outbound call to an 800 number. If so, both the physician and patient will be able to hear the LanguageLine interpreter. Again, these interpreters are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in more than 240 languages.  

Accessing audio interpretation in this manner is typically uncomplicated, though some support may be needed depending on the platform your organization is using to communicate with remote patients. LanguageLine is pleased to provide this support as necessary. 

What are my next steps?

Your organization may already have a relationship with a language-services provider like LanguageLine. Please check with your business administrator or patient-services manager.

If your organization already has a relationship with LanguageLine, we encourage you to contact your account representative to assess which solutions would most benefit your patients and healthcare team.

If you do not yet have a relationship with LanguageLine, we invite you to contact us and schedule a consultation, during which we will assess your needs and immediately provide you with potential solutions.