MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – You’re sick. You don’t know why. You’re sitting in the emergency room. The doctors and nurses don’t speak the same language as you. In our continued partnership with Intermountain Medical Center, we tackle the language barrier. In-person and new technology being used to smooth out doctor-patient communication.
Working in the Emergency Department at Intermountain Medical Center means encountering unknown situations and helping patients from around the globe who now call Utah home.
“Every day and sometimes several times a day,” said Emergency Physician at Intermountain Medical Center Dr. Harlan Hayes.
That’s how often Dr. Harlan Hayes helps people who don’t speak English. As an emergency physician at IMC time is of the essence. So is knowing exactly what’s wrong.
“90% of the time or perhaps our diagnosis is made based on talking to the patient, taking an accurate family history,” said Dr. Hayes.
In more than 200 languages there’s video conferencing for interpretation services. This is only used if an on-site interpreter isn’t available.
“We have over 50 spanish interpreters on any given day and cantonese and mandarin staff interpreters.Through other agencies in the valley we hire out as needed,” said Intermountain Medical Center Language Services Manager Carlos Martinez-Morales.
They’re not only language interpreters, but act as cultural brokers.
“Sometimes the cultural barrier can be even more of a barrier than language itself. Language is very obvious, but then there’s this cultural background that you need to understand to be able to put things into the right context,” said Martinez-Morales.
That helps to ease concerns for patient and doctor.
“I’ve seen that fear in their eyes or that worry in their eyes,” said Dr. Hayes.
No need to worry about the machine taking away jobs for in-person interpreters. It’s only used when that’s not available. That includes patients who are deaf and need American Sign Language.
“We can sense an increased need for these interpretation services,” said Dr. Hayes.
The Language Services Department within Intermountain Healthcare plans to upgrade its technology; video interpretation on the large tv’s in some patient rooms.