Ask the Expert: Johns Hopkins Medicine International’s Language Access Services

Susana Velarde, an administrator for Johns Hopkins Medicine International’s Language Access Services division, is here to answer questions about using trained and qualified medical interpreters. Her team fields interpretation requests in 130 languages. As of March 1, they also handle arrangements for Johns Hopkins Hospital or Johns Hopkins Community Physicians (JHCP) patients who need an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. Below, she answers common questions she receives. She’s happy to answer more; you can submit them in the comments section.

For Johns Hopkins Hospital or JHCP employees who have ever had a patient who needed an interpreter for sign or foreign language, Susana invites you to take a brief survey. (Please note that this survey has been distributed in multiple ways. If you’ve taken it recently, please do not take it again.)

Why is it important to use a trained and qualified medical interpreter for you or a family member with limited English proficiency or who is deaf or hard of hearing?

Using a trained and qualified medical interpreter relates directly to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s strategic priority of patient- and family-centered care, the second goal of which is to create partnership between patients, families and providers for safer and more cost-efficient care. Partnership requires that patients have a way to communicate clearly and directly with those delivering their care so that they can ask and answer questions and share their concerns. They also need reliable and accurate information about their condition and treatment so that they can make decisions and fully understand their role in their own care.

Patients are also legally entitled to these services under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which mandates nondiscrimination. In 2000, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health created national Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards in Health and Health Care. The standards aim to advance health equity, among other goals. By providing our patients with trained and qualified medical interpreters, Johns Hopkins is complying with these legal requirements and protecting our patients and ourselves.

How do I get a foreign language or ASL interpreter for my patient?

For Johns Hopkins Hospital or JHCP locations, call 410-614-4685 (4-4685) at any time—24 hours a day, seven days a week—to schedule foreign language or ASL interpretation services. All you need is information from the patient’s electronic medical record. Please flag the patient’s record in Epic to make it easier to schedule interpretation services going forward.

If you are working in other hospitals or health care settings and you don’t know whom to contact, the best place to start is your patient relations office.

If you or someone you know ever needs interpretation in a medical setting, you should notify a staff member as soon as possible. Specify the kind of interpretation needed and include the language if your request is for foreign language interpretation. It is your right to request interpretation services and to insist that care not proceed until your request is fulfilled.

I’m proficient in Spanish and I’d like to treat my patients in Spanish. Can I do that?

Maybe. In 2011, The Johns Hopkins Hospital instituted a new policy to improve patient safety and better comply with Joint Commission recommendations for communications standards.

In order to treat patients in a foreign language—even your native tongue—your competency must be assessed and validated by Johns Hopkins Medicine International. If you are interested in an assessment, please contact JHILanguageTesting@jhmi.edu.

What if the need for interpretation is urgent?

 I can only speak for the hospital and JHCP locations for which my team provides service:

For foreign language only: Dial 410-614-4685 to be connected to someone who can provide interpretation services over the phone.

For foreign language or ASL: Video remote interpretation (VRI) is available at any time; all you need is a laptop that can be moved to the patient’s bedside. We’ve recently switched to a more reliable VRI service provider that uses a Web-based application to quickly connect you to a sign or foreign language interpreter. To schedule a demonstration, please contact Tamika McFarlane.

How can I make my patient more comfortable with interpretation?

Address your patient directly, maintaining eye contact and proceeding as you would with any other patient. This goes back to the reason why using a certified interpreter is important: patient- and family-centered care. It’s important that your patient feel engaged and comfortable in directly addressing you, regardless of whether or not that is through an interpreter.

Does your team do written translations?

Yes. We can provide written translations of patient education materials, hospital forms and generalized discharge instructions. This goes back to the patient- and family-centered care priority, specifically to optimizing outcomes and reducing costs. Patients have to be clear about “next steps” in their treatment in order to own their parts of the care process. We can help ensure that written instructions are clear and accurate. If you have questions or requests, please contact JHITranslations@jhmi.edu.

 

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