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New virtual interpreting service gives patients with limited English proficiency better access to care

A new video remote interpreter service being tested at BC Cancer ensures language is not a barrier to care for patients.
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Demonstration of VRI technology at BC Cancer Vancouver

​Patients with limited English proficiency will now have access to a virtual interpreting service at Systemic Therapy ambulatory clinic – POD 1 at BC Cancer Vancouver. A tablet mounted on an adjustable rolling stand will enable clinicians and patients to speak with an interpreter on a live video call during a medical appointment. Launched December 16, the service provides access to 36 languages using the video feature and 240 languages through audio.

Language barriers can cause a number of challenges during a medical appointment, including patients misunderstanding key medical information, which can lead to frustration for patients and providers, as well as confusion with care plans. 

“We are excited to launch the first PHSA virtual interpreter technology solution at the BC Cancer Vancouver Centre,” said Kiran Malli, director of Provincial Language Service (PLS). “The technology we are introducing will ensure that language is not a barrier to care. Through its on-demand nature, clinicians have ready access to a trained and certified interpreter.”  

The video remote interpreter will augment PLS's other interpreter offerings,  which include in-person and over-the-phone interpreting. 

Service will be rolled out to more clinics
“With clinicians in the Systemic Therapy ambulatory clinic on board with this interpreting modality, we hope to gain feedback and satisfaction from patients and clinicians before we roll out to more clinical areas in BC Cancer,” said Lumi Nica, clinical manager, BC Cancer Vancouver.

The video remote interpreter service is now available at BC Cancer Vancouver, and will be available in January at various clinical sites in the Lower Mainland including BC Cancer Surrey, Vancouver General Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital, with plans to expand to more locations in 2020. 

Project is a collaboration across health authorities
The service is provided through the project that is testing virtual interpreting technology with the potential of adoption on a permanent basis. A collaboration with PHSA’s Provincial Language Service, the Office of Virtual Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health, the project aims to provide the patient with better access to care by improving the timeliness of interpreting services and enhance communication between clinicians and their patients who have a language barrier. 

For more information about the virtual health demonstration project, or if you think video remote interpreters could be a good fit for your setting, please contact the Office of Virtual Health or the Provincial Language Service.  

The Office of Virtual Health leads and provides strategic direction for the overall Virtual Health initiative across PHSA.  

The Provincial Language Service provides interpreting and translation services to BC health authorities and private physician offices.

Office of Virtual Health; Provincial Language Services
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