Telephone Interpreting is the fastest growing modality of community interpreting. To help our members better understand the issues that relate to phone interpreting, the IMIA is proud to have published an IMIA Guide about Telephone Interpreting.National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care. FINAL REPORT. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Minority Health. March 2001http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/assets/pdf/checked/finalreport.pdfStandard 4
Telephone Interpreter Services
As noted in the discussion of Standard 6, both the OCR guidance and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) report speak to using telephone interpreter services as a supplemental system, because such services may not always have readily available interpreters who are familiar with medical terminology or concepts. Nevertheless, telephone interpretation may be the only option in facilities that are very decentralized (such as plans based on an independent physician network), or must deal with a large number (25 or more) of languages, for which it would be difficult to maintain an adequate staff. In general, face-to-face encounters between patients/consumers and clinicians that involve diagnosis, treatment, and education may benefit from an on-site interpreter and, if lengthy, may be significantly cheaper that using a phone service. On-site interpreters are also able to observe and raise issues indicated by demeanor or body language from the patient - an especially critical ability when sensitive information is being communicated. Telephone interpretation may be appropriate for nonclinical interactions, emergency situations when waiting for an in-person interpreter may compromise patient outcomes, or situations requiring very uncommon languages. Staff should have clear written policies on when it is acceptable to use telephone interpreter services, and when in-person interpretation is necessary. Health care organizations should have standards by which they evaluate the quality of the services received, and have criteria to select high quality vendors. They should evaluate the recruitment and training programs used to select and train phone interpreters. If phone interpreters are used at all, procedures and policies should be in place to facilitate the use of these phone lines, and staff should be trained in their use.
© 2013, International Medical Interpreters Association
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