Cisco Systems is touting teleconferencing as a way of making US hospital visits faster, safer and less stressful for non-English speaking patients and the doctors who care for them.
The Health Care Interpreter Network (HCIN) uses video and audio conferencing to link doctors and patients in three California hospitals with a network of interpreters covering Spanish, Cambodian, Hindi, Tongan and Hmong.
HCIN began pilot testing in August 2005 and uses videoconferencing equipment from Cisco to link the doctors and patients using a network of portable videophones, Cisco Polycom wireless phones or traditional landlines.
Dr Susan Ehrlich, medical director of the Ron Robinson Senior Care Center, explained that after selecting the language she can be video-linked to a live operator within seconds or transferred to an outside translation agency.
"Before HCIN I would have desperately tried to find an interpreter in that language, and I may or may not have been successful," Dr Ehrlich told vnunet.com.
"If I was successful, the person would have to leave their job and come down here. During that time the patient is anxious, the whole clinic is thrown off and the interpreter is not able to do their job.
"And if there wasn't an interpreter available, I would have to stumble along in English."
David Hook, director of marketing and communications at the San Mateo Medical Center, added: "At best, we were not giving top quality health care, and at worst we could have some serious medical errors."
- A video demonstration of the Health Care Interpreter Network is available on the Silicon Valley Sleuth blog.
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