How Coronavirus Has Impacted Medical Interpretation

The coronavirus has displaced and disrupted many usual medical practices. More than ever, the need for adaptive medical treatment that can reach anyone regardless of their situation or spoken language has proven its importance in the face of a global pandemic.

The impact of the coronavirus on medical interpretation and translation, of both face-to-face and remote interpreter services, will shape the future of these processes. Care facilities are reaching out through telemedicine as well as through in-house staffing to overcome language barriers and prescribe the care individuals need while a dangerous virus rages across the world.

Here, we’ll discuss the trends in interpretation and translation services across the medical industry in the wake of the pandemic, exploring the full impact of the coronavirus on comprehensive medical communication.

The Issue of Staffing

Despite the global issue affecting economies and unemployment centering around public health, hospitals and care facilities have not been immune to rampant layoffs and loss of income. The American Hospital Association estimates that a total of $120.5 billion will be lost across care facilities from July to December of 2020. To mitigate these losses, some hospitals have placed workers, like translators, on leave.

The TIMES reported a nation-wide issue of medical interpreters being laid-off as hospitals struggle with adapting, a problem that presents health concerns as medical facilities attempt to navigate these transitions. Duquesne University states that about 9% of the U.S. population is at risk for adverse consequences due to the problems language barriers can create. That is why now, arguably more than ever, transcultural nursing and medical interpretation services are essential.

While some may look to the future of artificial intelligence and automation technologies to fill these translation gaps, these technologies likely will not ever replace human translators. Language is often too complex, too reliant on nuance like body language, and too subjective for effective AI interpretation.

Because of this, care facilities are investing more in telehealth services to keep translators at a safe distance, minimize costs, and still provide needed translation services to the millions of Americans who require them.

The Rise in Telehealth Interpretation Services

Remote translation and interpretation services are needed to combat the complex system of shutdowns and lost employment opportunities amid a health crisis the world over. These services allow at-risk, often minority groups to get the care they need without compromise, managing solutions for a broad section of the community.

Telehealth interpretation and remote translation offer the following advantages for medical personnel and patients alike, creating safe and effective care in a COVID world:

* Limits the exposure of translation staff to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
* Assists in the diagnosis and treatment of illness from remote locations, allowing treatment and outreach even to rural areas.
* Gives better access to data and clinical studies across communities through translation, like the work GTS has done to assist in with COVID-19 research.
* Limits hospital crowding, enabling better social distancing practices.
* Retains access to important methods of communication like body language through video teleconference.

Hospitals and care facilities are rapidly shifting to a telehealth model because of all the benefits remote interpreters can provide at this time. Despite the shift in hospital staffing off-site, the potential for remote interpreters to conduct their work over video call enables safety across care facilities and for translators, making these services high in demand in today’s pandemic world. Live chat systems can serve as funnels to human translators and interpreters who then serve the patient via video chat.

Security is a concern of this transition to telehealth services, but care facilities often work with highly encrypted systems to enable the safety of data even as many processes shift to remote or paperless solutions. Often, this can be even more secure than traditional processes, given the quality encryption utilized by both hospitals and translation services.

A Remote Future for Medical Interpretation

The shift to remote translation services has come with both positives and negatives for many medical interpreters. On the one hand, the global situation has led to uncertainty and even lay-offs. On the other hand, the need for medical interpreters is great, with efforts to expand telehealth offerings for translation services expanding all the time.

This expansion has the potential to lead to better care for rural and previously underserved communities, as translators will not have to be physically present within a community but can work from all over the world to be where they are most needed. At the same time, translators can keep safe and reduced congestion in care facilities to better assist in social distancing measures.

As the world adjusts to the realities of a pandemic, medical interpretation personnel stand to make a real difference in the quality of care for millions of people across the world. The value of these services has never been more clear, even if it might take care facilities time to catch up to the remote shift.

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About the Author

Adrian Johansen is a self-employed blogger and content creator who likes to write about a wide range of interesting topics.

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