ULG's Language Services Blog

Video Remote Interpreting: Enhancing Patient Care And Cutting Costs

According to the Center for Disease Control, in the U.S. alone there are 990.8 million physicians’ visits and 267.1 million emergency room visits or hospital outpatient visits in a year.

The patients visiting these healthcare institutions come from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, which can affect their access to quality care. While most Americans speak English as their first language, 25 million Americans are Limited English Proficient (LEP), which means that English is not their primary language and they have a limited ability to read, write, or speak the language. With healthcare’s specialized jargon and the high stakes patients and doctors often face, closing this language gap is crucial in order to improve patient safety and outcomes.

Language interpreting services enable healthcare providers to communicate more effectively with LEP patients, better diagnose medical conditions, and provide the best possible standard of care.

In order to provide comprehensive interpreting services while reducing overhead cost, hospitals have been relying more and more on Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). Here is a general overview of the technology, as well as some of the benefits that come from the use of VRI in a healthcare setting.


Multiple Language Options In One Place


On any given day, hospital staff may encounter multiple foreign languages or none at all. Even though many hospitals will employ interpreters, especially if the hospital is based in a neighborhood where languages other than English are predominantly spoken, hospitals will not likely have an interpreter with the ability to speak every language the hospital might come across.

VRI offers a plethora of language options, which a healthcare provider can choose with the click of a button and immediately connect with an expert in that language. This setup is ideal when only a few patients speak a particular language and interpreting in that language will be needed infrequently.



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The Benefits of Speed and Visual Communication


An internet technology, VRI can be used by opening an interpreting app on a tablet, computer, or phone, selecting the target language, and connecting with a live interpreter in under a minute.

This method is significantly faster than waiting on hold for an interpreter on the phone or for an interpreter to arrive in person, especially if they are coming from outside of the hospital grounds. 

In addition, using video enables patients to connect with their interpreters more directly and communicate with body language and other nonverbal cues that go unnoticed over the phone. Consequently, VRI enhances communication quality while drastically improving speed.


Lower Cost


With VRI, hospitals can instantly connect with a live interpreter when they need one, rather than retain one or several full-time staff interpreters or call in an expert interpreter as needed. As a result, compared to in-person or phone interpreters, VRI can also lead to a lower cost per patient encounter.


Better Communication With LEP Patients Can Shorten Hospital Stays


Studies show that patients with limited English proficiency have hospital stays up to 6% longer for certain medical and surgical conditions compared to native English speakers.

By improving communication, medical care can be delivered more efficiently, reducing individual patient time in the hospital and enabling hospitals to see more patients, provide more services, and generate more revenue.

Though helpful and potentially life-saving for patients, VRI does not only apply to the healthcare sector. Any industry or organization working with multiple languages that needs interpreting services on an ad hoc basis would benefit from VRI.