Grant will help bridge language barrier

DOWNEY - L.A. Care Health Plan announced Tuesday that it will contribute $572,000 to help continue the video medical interpretation (VMI) system offered at four Los Angeles County hospitals, including Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.The VMI system provides quick and easy on-screen access to interpreter services, allowing patient-physician communication at the point of care. Nearly one in three L.A. County residents experience difficulties communicating in English, officials said. Forty-eight percent of Latinos and 43% of Asians countywide face language barriers, which may hinder access to necessities such as health care and other social services, statistics provided by L.A. Care Health Plan show. The VMI system is normally used in cases when a patient does not speak the physician's language. To facilitate one-on-one communication during a medical visit, the physician connects via video conference call to an offsite interpreter through a wireless mobile flat-screen computer station that can be wheeled to the patient's bedside. When the connection is made, the on-screen interpreter is seen and heard live by both the physician and the patient. "In the past my children had to act as my interpreter during medical visits because I do not understand English. It could get frustrating at times because they would not know how to explain a procedure or say the word correctly," said Teresa Hernandez, 39, a spinal cord injury patient at Rancho Los Amigos. "Now I have an interpreter who can see me and explain to me so that I understand. It helps to know that my feelings are also being expressed the right way." Interpretation services are available in 15 languages including Spanish, Korean, Armenian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Farsi, Arabic, Hmong, Lao, Mandarin, Mixteco, Russian, Thai, Vietnamese and American Sign Language. "At L.A. Care we recognize that available of services does not necessarily mean access to care," said Dr. Elaine Batchlor, chief medical officer at L.A. Care. "This type of virtual communication has increased patient access to interpreters by 50 percent and continues to improve the quality of care, patient satisfaction and health care outcomes." In addition to Rancho Los Amigos, the VMI system is also at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar and USC Medical Center in El Sereno. The hospitals are located in service areas where 75% of the patients with language barriers live and where interpretation services are needed most, officials said.

********** Published: November 18, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 31