Hawaii hospital hopes new technology breaks language barrier - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii hospital hopes new technology breaks language barrier

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Queen's Medical Center sees patients from across our very diverse state - plus, visitors from around the world - who don't always speak English. In times of emergency, communication is key. So Queen's adopted some new technology - where doctors and patients can ultimately speak the same language.

When it comes to bedside manner, breaking the language barrier is important.

ER doctor Grace Packard contacts a 24/7 mainland call center within LAN, the Language Access Network, and begins video-conferencing.

When a facilitator comes on-screen, he asks the doctor which language she needs. "Korean, please," she answers. The facilitator says, "Korean? One moment."

Our patient does speak English, but for this demonstration, she communicates only in her native Korean. The interpreter asks the patient a few questions, she answers, and then, the translator relays the answer to Dr. Packard.

Queen's is the first Hawaii hospital to use this video system. It used to rely solely on phone calls to interpreters, but it's found this to be more effective.

"Sometimes, phone can be kind of static," explains demo patient, Nikki Chun. "Sometimes, they cannot understand, so actual video conference is more comforting."

"There's nothing more valuable than what a patient tells me in their history," says Dr. Packard. "There's no labs that are as effective at diagnosing, and there's no medicines that are as effective as treating, as just giving guidance to the patient."

The system covers more than 210 languages. The translators must be proficient in at least two (one of them being English) and trained in medical terminology.

"We have that vehicle where we could explain to patients - be it medication, a treatment, procedure that we were doing, and then, also to obtain consent," adds Queen's Vice-President of Nursing, Cindy Kamikawa.

The system also adheres to all HIPPA and medical guidelines - so the network is secure and all communications are private. The portable monitor goes from room-to-room - with hopes that no diagnosis will be lost in translation.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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