In the last couple of years, SSC has been learning about the unique concerns of community-based specialists to help identify ways to better support their work. One result of this effort has been a pilot program offering community-based specialists free access to PHSA’s Spoken Language Interpreting Services.
The service offers specialists spoken language interpreters to facilitate communication between patients with limited English proficiency and health-care practitioners. Interpretation services are available in more than 350 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week via in-person and phone across the province.
Dr Fergus To, an Internal Medicine, Rheumatology specialist working in Vancouver has been using the service at least once or twice a week since it launched in early July 2021. Dr To found that by using the service he has a higher level of comfort about what is being communicated to the patient and vice versa.
Previously, Dr To relied on family members or Google translation to assist him.
Dr To says, “a trained translator knows to only translate what I’m saying and not interpret it differently. I think with family translations there can be aspects of the ‘broken telephone game.'”
He also feels more confident moving forward with his patient’s treatment because he trusts he has the patient’s full history.
Using an interpreter allows patients or family members to focus solely on understanding their illness or to support loved ones. Dr To explains, “I can’t even imagine going to another country and trying to explain symptoms, which are hard enough to describe in my native language.”
Dr To’s concerns that using an interpreter would slow down the visit were quickly dispelled.
“Generally, it’s been surprisingly quick and I have used a number of different languages with much the same experience.”
Dr To has found some patients are now requesting to have the service available during their appointments.
Note: Community-based specialists can access the Spoken Language Interpretation Services at no cost as part of SSC's pilot project. Other physicians, including family physicians, can also access this free service through PHSA and/or their health authority.