Breaking Down Remote Interpreting: The Future of Healthcare Communication in Houston and Dallas

A multilingual chatbot on a healthcare website Caption: Multilingual chatbots are being used to help non-English speaking patients communicate with healthcare providers.
 Multilingual chatbots are being used to help non-English speaking patients communicate with healthcare providers.

Access to quality healthcare is a basic human right, but language barriers can make the process of receiving care difficult and even harmful for non-English speaking patients. For Alba Sanchez, a Spanish-speaking patient who recently had a remote medical interpreting experience during a uterine cancer screening, the struggle to communicate effectively with healthcare providers was all too real. She stated, “I get so desperate. I would love to speak and communicate just the same as (English speakers) without depending on other things. Sometimes I go places where no one speaks Spanish, and I have to try my best to communicate.”

Unfortunately, Alba’s situation is not unique. With only a small percentage (around 4%) of healthcare providers in the US speaking Spanish, recruiting and training more bilingual medical workers is a long-term solution that may take years to address the growing demand for medical interpreters and translators, particularly in diverse populations like Houston and Dallas.

To make matters worse, the reliance on costly and unreliable third-party translation services often adds another layer of difficulty for patients and healthcare providers alike. These services can be difficult to access, especially in emergency situations, and may not always provide accurate translations, leading to misunderstandings and potentially harmful medical outcomes. Additionally, interpreter or patient no-shows can result in wasted time and resources.

A bilingual medical student receiving training Caption: Medical schools are implementing programs specifically designed to recruit and support Spanish-speaking students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare.
Medical schools are implementing programs specifically designed to recruit and support Spanish-speaking students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare.

Overcoming Language Barriers in Healthcare:

While having more bilingual medical workers is preferred, addressing these challenges will require more bilingual medical workers and new technologies such as automated translation and video remote interpreting that offer affordable options for patients and doctors. In this article, we will explore the different modes of remote interpreting and how they can help bridge the gap in access to quality healthcare for non-English speaking patients in Houston and Dallas.

Attracting More Bilingual Medical Workers

The shortage of bilingual medical workers is a major challenge facing healthcare providers who are trying to offer interpreting services to patients. One potential solution is to recruit and train more Spanish-speaking students for medical careers. Local colleges and universities are playing an important role in this effort by implementing programs specifically designed to recruit and support Spanish-speaking students who are interested in pursuing careers in healthcare.

For example, the University of Houston-Downtown’s College of Sciences and Technology offers a bilingual program for students pursuing degrees in biology, chemistry, and computer science. The program provides students with the opportunity to develop their Spanish language skills, while also gaining hands-on experience in their field of study.

Similarly, Lone Star College in Houston offers a Health Occupations Programs for Bilingual Students, which provides bilingual students with training and support in a variety of healthcare fields, including nursing, radiologic technology, and respiratory care.

These programs are helping to address the shortage of bilingual medical workers, but healthcare providers can also take steps to recruit and train their own bilingual support staff. One key strategy is to offer ongoing training and support to current employees who speak Spanish or another language commonly spoken by patients.

For example, clinics and hospitals can provide additional training to front desk staff, medical assistants, and other support staff to help them convert complex medical terminology into Spanish. They can also offer language classes or other language-learning resources to employees who are interested in improving their language skills.

By recruiting and training more bilingual medical workers, and by providing ongoing support and training to current employees, healthcare providers can improve their ability to offer high-quality interpreting services to patients who need them.

A healthcare provider and a patient are communicating using video remote interpreting
Telehealth visits with remote interpreters have proven to improve access to healthcare for non-English speaking patients
Title: Bilingual medical student receiving training.

The Need for Remote Interpreting in Healthcare

As the population of the United States becomes more linguistically diverse, the healthcare industry must also become more globalized and diverse. Thus, the need for accurate and timely medical interpretation services is critical. In response to this challenge, remote interpreting services have emerged as a vital tool for providing quality healthcare services to patients who speak different languages.

Remote interpreting is becoming an increasingly important tool for healthcare providers as they seek to provide quality care to patients who speak different languages. There are three main modes of remote interpreting that are commonly used: Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI), Video-Remote-Interpreting (VRI), and Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI).

Different Modes of Remote Interpreting

Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI)

OPI involves a shared phone line between the parties and the interpreter. It is easy to access and quick to use, and does not require any special equipment or software. However, it does not allow for non-verbal communication or ASL interpretation, and may have lower quality or accuracy than other modes.

Video-Remote-Interpreting (VRI)

VRI involves a video call or chat between the parties and the interpreter. It allows for non-verbal communication and ASL interpretation, and can also provide simultaneous interpreting for faster communication. However, it requires a stable internet connection and a compatible device, and may be less personal or confidential than other modes.

Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI)

RSI involves a telecommunications software that allows interpreters to deliver simultaneous interpreting remotely. It can provide high-quality simultaneous interpreting for large-scale events or meetings, and can also reduce travel costs and time for both interpreters and clients. However, it requires a reliable platform and skilled interpreters, and may be more expensive or complex than other modes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Remote Interpreting

Each mode of remote interpreting has its own advantages and disadvantages, and healthcare providers must carefully consider which mode is best suited for their particular situation. For example, a family care clinic might find VRI to be extremely helpful, as it allows for face-to-face interaction and non-verbal communication. Meanwhile, a hospital might prefer OPI for quick and easy access to interpreters.

It is important to note that while remote interpreting can be a valuable tool for healthcare providers, it is not a replacement for in-person interpreting in all situations. Providers must assess each situation and determine the best course of action for ensuring clear communication with their patients.

Exploring Automated Translation and Voice/Video-based Solutions

Automated translation and voice/video-based solutions are increasingly being used in healthcare settings to overcome language barriers and improve patient care. Automated translation is a text-based solution that uses software to translate messages between languages. On the other hand, voice/video-based solutions use live interpreters to communicate with patients in real-time.

One of the advantages of automated translation is its accessibility, as it is available 24/7 and can be used anywhere with an internet connection. However, its accuracy and ability to interpret complex medical terminology may be limited. Patients and healthcare providers may also find it impersonal and less engaging.

Voice/video-based solutions, on the other hand, allow for real-time communication and can provide more accurate interpretations of medical terminology. Patients can also see the interpreter, which can help build trust and rapport. However, these solutions may require more advanced technology and a stable internet connection, and may also be more costly than automated translation.

Real-life Examples of Remote Interpreting in Healthcare

Real-life examples of how these solutions are being used in healthcare settings include telehealth visits, where patients can communicate with healthcare providers through video interpreters, and the use of multilingual chatbots on healthcare websites. These solutions have been shown to improve patient satisfaction and access to care, particularly for non-English speaking patients.

It’s important for healthcare providers to carefully consider the costs and benefits of implementing these solutions in their own organizations.

Considerations for Healthcare Providers When Choosing a Remote Interpreting Mode

Despite these challenges, many healthcare providers have successfully implemented automated translation and voice/video-based solutions in their organizations, with positive results for both patients and providers. For example, one hospital reported that using a video remote interpretation service on iPads reduced their average interpretation time from 12 minutes to 6 minutes per session. The service also improved patient satisfaction and quality of care.

Another telephonic interpretation service provider claimed that video interpretation services offer relief for patients who can see someone who can communicate in their primary language. They also said that video remote interpreting services are extremely beneficial to those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

When implementing these solutions, healthcare providers should carefully consider the costs associated with each option, as well as the needs of their patient population. Some solutions may be more expensive or complex than others, and some patient populations may have specific needs that require a certain type of solution.


In conclusion, remote interpreting is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare industry due to the growing number of non-English speaking patients and the shortage of bilingual medical workers. Different modes of remote interpreting such as OPI, VRI, and RSI have their own advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important for healthcare providers to choose the right mode depending on the patient needs and technology requirements. Automated translation and voice/video-based solutions are also becoming more popular, but they come with their own costs and limitations.

Real-life examples of how these solutions are being used in healthcare settings show that they have a positive impact on patient care and satisfaction. However, it’s important for healthcare providers to carefully consider the pros and cons of each solution and to implement them with the proper training and support.

For healthcare providers looking to improve their interpreting services, it’s important to explore all options available, including recruiting and training bilingual support staff, using third-party translation services, or implementing automated translation and voice/video-based solutions. By doing so, they can provide high-quality interpreting services that meet the needs of their diverse patient population.

In the words of Dr. Jeffrey S Weinstein, Medical Director of Liver Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Services at Methodist Health System in Dallas, “Interpretation is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s essential to quality care.” Let’s strive to provide the best care possible to all patients, regardless of language barriers.

24 Hour Translation Services: Your Partner in Providing Quality Healthcare Communication

At 24 Hour Translation Services, we understand the critical role of language in healthcare communication, and we are committed to helping healthcare providers bridge the language gap with their non-English speaking patients. As a leading provider of language solutions, we offer a range of services including remote medical interpreting, medical translation, and localization services to meet the needs of our clients.

Our team of professional linguists is experienced in medical terminology and adheres to strict confidentiality protocols, ensuring accurate and secure communication between patients and healthcare providers. We work with healthcare providers to customize our services to their specific needs, providing cost-effective and reliable language solutions that improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

By partnering with 24 Hour Translation Services, healthcare providers can improve their ability to offer quality care to all patients, regardless of language barriers. Contact us today to learn more about our language solutions and how we can help you break down language barriers in healthcare.

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