Seton cutting in-person interpreters, increasing video interpreters

Seton Healthcare Family hospitals are changing up the way they communicate with non-English speaking patients.

The hospital staff at University Medical Center Brackenridge has decided to increase their use of video interpreters and decrease the number of in-person interpreters.
An interpreter that spoke with FOX 7 said Seton gave her two weeks’ notice that she would have to reapply for her position. She said the hospital currently has 67 interpreters and is planning to cut that number to 22 and only 13 of them will be full time. No one at Seton could confirm that number.

“On February 12 we're transitioning to more video interpretation to meet the needs of our limited English proficient community,” said Seton Chief Strategy officer Geronimo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said they translated 22 languages at Seton hospitals in Austin last year and the increase in demand for interpreters convinced them to re-think how they are meeting patient's needs.

“The need for interpretation services is growing. I think the challenge is what do you do with your limited resources around providing those services?” said Rodriguez. 

Seton said they will keep some of their in-person interpreters for death or dying cases and to explain research studies, but they will be using more video interpretation to explain care instructions at a patient’s bedside.

“We've looked at efficiencies and it's much more efficient to be giving a video interpretation instantly on, for example, discharge instructions rather than waiting for an interpreter who happens to be with someone else,” Rodriguez said.  

Video interpretation will be handled using a tablet. Similar to Skype or Facetime, patients will be able to speak with a human being via the internet.

“It's the same as having an in-person interpreter but for us it's the opportunity to expand our services so more individuals get the opportunity to have interpretations at the right time at the right place,” said Rodriguez. 

Not everyone is happy about the changes. An online petition has more than 1,400 signatures

These are some of the things people on that petition are saying:

"I've seen the difference in care between on-site interpreters and electronic versions. In person provides such a greater level of care and connection for patients," one commenter wrote.

"I am signing because having an onsite interpreter is much better than having a remote interpreter. When it is done remotely, the interpreter has a hard time visually seeing the signs of the patient understanding what is being said to them," reads another comment. 

Seton said they can't confirm how many in-person interpreters will be let go during this shift and they were unable to name the company that will be providing video interpretations at this point, but the changes are expected to go into effect starting February 12.

Currently about 28 percent of the Austin community speak a language other than English.

The top five languages Seton interpreters translated last year were Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese.

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