Telemedicine Expands, Though Financial Prospects Still Uncertain


Oct 2, 2015 / by Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen


From National Public Radio...


Article Excerpt: Say you're a Midwestern farmer in a hospital bed, recovering from surgery or a major illness. It's time for the nurse's check-in, but there's no knock on the door. At Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, a camera attached to the wall over the foot of the bed whirls around, as a video monitor next to the camera lights up to show a smiling face with a headset on.


"Good afternoon, this is Jeff with SafeWatch," the smiling face says. "Just doing my afternoon rounds." It's a little hard to shake the Jetsons vibe in this telemedicine training exercise, but this kind of health care isn't just futuristic; it's happening now and expanding.


"Coverage will be expanded to include more physicians and more specialties and also a range of communications," Turk says. "So instead of it being only interactive video consultation, it could be text messaging as well."


Link to the full article HERE.


InterpretAmerica's Take: We often cite the rapid pace of change and disruption currently impacting the interpreting profession. It´s easy to focus on the new technologies being used inside our profession as agents of change. But in reality, one of the biggest drivers of change in the interpreting profession is when the industries where we work experience disruption. 

Few fields are evolving faster than healthcare and this article is a perfect example of that. As telemedicine spreads, it inevitably ripples to healthcare interpreting. Many onsite medical interpreters are already being asked to stretch their skill set to include stints doing remote telephonic and video conferencing, often in new call centers being set up on hospital grounds. Now telemedicine will put interpreters on the other end of video interpreting, where the patient is the one on the video screen, not the interpreter.


The article also points to the likelihood of texting telemedicine to grow. This represents the cutting edge of change in our field: emerging hybrid forms of communicating.  The insertion of chatting, texting and emailing into healthcare communication begs the question of who will ultimately interpret/translate them. They are written communications, hence a translator is best suited. Right? Yet these are also verbal forms of communication that require rapid, real-time processing and analytical skills to render correctly within a limited time, something the interpreter is trained to do. So maybe interpreters should take the task on, right? .


At some point, interpreter protocols and best practices for how to work professionally using these powerful new communication tools need to be created. In our mind, this article tells us that it needs to be sooner. Change is now. 

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