Health care professionals sometimes need to communicate urgently with a patient who cannot converse in English, and waiting for an interpreter can cause delays.
A technology called remote video interpreting is being trialed at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and it makes access to interpreters in 240 languages as simple as the click of a button.
The "interpreter on wheels" uses an iPad fitted with special speakers and microphone and can be wheeled right to the patient's bedside. The health provider simply powers it on, chooses the language they need interpreted and presses connect.
The device connects securely to a live interpreter using an online language service. Depending on the language, interpreters are available by video link most times of day and 24 hours a day by audio only.
The system is on trial for two months on an acute elder-care unit at VGH. It was used 159 times in a 33 day period.
"Staff, patients and family members are very grateful to be able to talk and express themselves with one another, on demand and right at the point of care," said Sarah Dunlop, care management leader and project lead.
"Communication is so important for quality patient-centered care."