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Translation unit breaks barriers with patients

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

ALBANY -- For the past few months, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital has had a new interpretation system to work with.

Since April, the hospital has been using three Language Link rovers in order for medical staff to better communicate with hearing impaired and non-speaking patients.

On the rover there is a video camera. An operator dials in a certified medical interpreter, who appears on the screen so that the interpreter and patient appear to have face-to-face interaction.

"They can see the interpreter and the interpreter can see them," said Phyllis Bush, guest services manager at Phoebe.

From there, the interpreter translates communication between the doctor and the patient. Interpretation comes in American and Mexican sign language, and in spoken Spanish.

In addition to the video, there is a feature that provides interpretations over the phone -- in 170 languages.

"It has helped me, knowing I can communicate with patients," said Ida Lomami, a nurse in the hospital's critical care unit.

In addition to breaking the language barriers, it has also aided with patient safety.

"It helps make sure they have the correct medications (and dosages)," Lomami said. "That's very important. To me, they know it and it makes it easier."

It also helps the patient's relationship with the medical staff.

"It puts the patient at ease," Lomami said. "(The medical staff) knows for sure what the patient was telling them."

Having this technology also assists the hospital as a whole, Bush said.

"It shows the patients we really care about them," she said.

There are two units in the hospital's guest services office, and one in the emergency center. The rovers float around Phoebe as needed.

There is also a unit stationed at the Meredyth Place complex.

"We have it available to anybody," said Bush.

The initial cost per rover was $2,500 with a monthly fee of $250.

Since the technology has been available, Bush said, she has been providing training and performing demonstrations to various staff members throughout the hospital.