Carolinas HealthCare System

Breaking through the language barrier is the key to delivering a better healthcare experience and now Carolinas HealthCare System's language services department is making it a little easier.

As part of the Patient Experience, language services developed virtual services that allow patients and their families to more frequently speak with interpreters face-to-face.

The new service, being tested at Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health, a facility of Carolinas Medical Center, allows language services teammates and clinicians to call interpreters across the country who can speak with patients in real-time through videoconferencing. The service is available through an application that can be downloaded to a range of mobile devices, including laptops, tablets and cell phones.

So far the virtual service has allowed teammates at Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health to quickly and effectively treat patients who arrive for care but do not speak English or are deaf. Patients can engage with interpreters virtually within one minute instead of waiting close to one hour for a non-System interpreter to arrive to the hospital. Frequently requested languages available via the service are:

  • American Sign Language (ASL)
  • Spanish
  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • Mandarin
  • Korean
  • Portuguese
  • Somali
  • Vietnamese
  • Russian

"It is a wonderful alternative to utilizing the interpreter phone line as the connection was great for the patient and for me," said David Lelio, MD, assistant medical director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health. "I have used the virtual interpreting service only once but found it helpful. It was quick to connect and clear for bi-directional communication, and it was appreciated by the patient."

The language services department is well staffed with interpreters who speak Spanish and almost always are available to meet with patients in person or speak with them over the phone. The virtual service is used when clinicians must care for patients immediately and do not have time to call for an interpreter or when patients request to speak with an interpreter face-to-face on days that System interpreters are unavailable to meet.

For instance, during Thanksgiving week in 2013, Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health teammates used more than 940 minutes of the videoconferencing technology for patients who needed translation services for Spanish, ASL and Vietnamese. This helped reduce wait times and enhance outcomes.

So far clinical staff and patients at Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health have responded positively to the new service, with many preferring the face-to-face interaction with interpreters instead of over-the-phone conversations. The goal is to expand the virtual interpreting services to facilities across the System once the pilot test ends at Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health.

If you are ever in need of an interpreter, please contact the Carolinas HealthCare System language services department (Danilo Formolo or call 704-355-3320).