Technology Bridges Language Gap

Caring for yourself or a loved one can be tough if you can't understand what the doctor is telling you to do. It's not just the medical terms. Hospitals are seeing more families who don't speak English.

Baby Cesar's family is among them. Before the little boy can leave Stormont-Vail's Neonatal Intensive Care, there's a lot mom Blanca Regalado and dad Hector Vitela need to know. But parent educator Cheri Gregg, RNC, doesn't have to worry. A real-time internet audio and video link has her hooked up with Jose Perez of Language Assistance Telemedicine in Houston. While Perez translates, she teaches mom and dad what they need to know to bring their baby home.

Gregg says it's especially vital for NIC families to understand the information. She says sometimes the babies go home on oxygen, monitors or medications where it's vital the details are fully understood.

Gregg says, since June, 13 percent of Stormont's NIC admissions have been to non-English speaking families. Transportation and work issues can limit when a family is able to get to the hospital, making them unable to be there when an in-person translator might be available. In contrast, the computer link is available 24-hours a day, at the family's convenience.

Stormont's had the service nearly two years, using separate phone and computer links. Recent upgrades make it much easier. Gregg says now, you turn on the computer, click one button, and are connected.

Gregg says the system can go anywhere in the hospital, even to a beside. Another advantage is that the translators have medical backgrounds. Perez says that allows them to provide patients more detailed information, because they understand what the local medical staff is trying to tell them.

It's a great relief to Cesar's parents. They say it was very helpful to be able to see the person talking to them. The lessons in their own language have them prepared and looking forward to the day Cesar can join his two big sisters at home.

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