Technology Breaks Language Barriers

Daniel Rivera recently had a big day. After six months in Stormont-Vail's NICU, he finally headed home, but first parents Maria and Alejandro got a little help from Texas.

"Medically, we need to be sure they're understanding all the instructions they hear from the nurses and the doctors, (so) when we send the baby home, we're assured they have the knowledge," said Judy Pachosa, Stormont-Vail patient representative.

But Maria doesn't speak much English. To be sure she has the knowledge to care for Daniel, Stormont is turning to Language Assistance Telemedicine. The Houston company provides a translator with a medical background. What's unique is the real-time link through which they can both hear and see the patients.

"It brings us a much better interpretation. The interpreter can actually see the patients, can see the body language, see the condition of the patient," said Diana Garcia-Ritter of LAT.

Daniel's discharge was the first in the country to be done using this method.

"We actually made history," said company president Simon Gongora.

The need for translators isn't new. In the past, Stormont relied on multi-lingual staff members, but those people had other responsibilities and staff would often end up waiting an hour or more for the person to arrive. Putting a full-time translator on staff wouldn't be financially feasible.

Using Language Assistance Telemedicine, Stormont has translators for 50 languages, including sign language, available in seconds, anywhere there's Internet access and a phone line.

"It can go right to the bedside," Pachosa said. "We don't have to have one set room for translation."

Stormont and Baylor are the only two hospitals in the country to use the LAT system. Several other hospitals and the Texas prison system are also looking into it.