Saint Barnabas rolls out state-of-the-art interpretation system for non-English speaking patients

The respiratory team at St. Barnabas Hospital.
St. Barnabas Hospital/File

West Bronx based St. Barnabas health system has unveiled a new piece of technology which will bridge language barriers with non-English speaking patients.

Using a twenty-four-hour a day, seven-day-per week on demand interpretation system called Voyce, physicians can now provide care in 235 languages and dialects – it’s a move St. Barnabas says will be “increasing the safety and quality of care for any non-English speaking patient.”

Along with more common languages such as Spanish, Voyce interpreters can also provide medical interpretation for different dialects of French, Portuguese, Arabic and also less commonly spoken languages, like Mandinka, Hmong, and Marshallese.

Here’s how it works, A touch on the interface’s screen from an iPad mounted on a rolling cart connects patients and providers with a live interpreter in three-way conversations which can stretch to as many as nine participants.

“Using Voyce, I can communicate more effectively with my patients both in-person and during remote telehealth visits,” said Harris Leitstein, a nurse practitioner in St. Barnabas’ diabetes center.

“The technology helps me provide a better, more personalized appointment for patients, regardless of their primary language,” Leitstein added.

Providers can also use Voyce to communicate with non-English speaking patients at-home in a telemedicine setting; more than 120 of the Voyce devices have been rolled out to outpatient and inpatient units throughout the hospital since October.

“We are providing quality translation, but also cultural and sociological interpretation,” said Lynette Alvarado, SBH Language Access Coordinator.

The hospital estimates about 85% of its patients are Spanish speakers while approximately 20% speak that language exclusively.

“Especially now, in the middle of the pandemic, which has isolated so many vulnerable people, it is critical to provide our patients with an interpreter who understands them and their needs,” she also made note of.

St. Barnabas estimates 85% of patients are Spanish speakers and approximately 20% of them speak it exclusively. Voyce interpreters can provide medical interpretation for different dialects of French, Portuguese, Arabic and also less commonly spoken languages, like Mandinka, Hmong, and Marshallese.

“Our partnership with St. Barnabas Hospital allows the clinician to seamlessly communicate with their patients who don’t speak English as a first language, which can often be a barrier to treatment and care plan adherence,” said Andrew Royce, chief executive officer of Voyce.

“Additionally, taking the friction out of the interpretation process can make a difference for patients, many of whom may not be native tech users, or may have had language barrier difficulties with technology in the past,” the CEO also said.

This is the first use of Voyce in a Bronx hospital.

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