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Global and Domestic Groups Focus on Health Care Language Services
Posted by Nataly Kelly on September 30, 2008  in the following blogs: Interpreting
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Last week, an important conference took place for the health care field -- Quality Health for Culturally Diverse Populations. Attendees from around the globe were present, and participants in an international roundtable shared their experiences related to multilingual and multicultural patient populations in Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Qatar, Switzerland, and the United States.

On the U.S. national front, speakers from Kaiser Permanente, Passport Health Plan, Health Net of California, the MAXIMUS Center for Health Literacy, and the Speaking Together project discussed medical translation quality and the related issues of technology, literacy, and culture in a panel session we moderated. We also published a new report that discusses our new Language Access Ratio (LAR) metric for benchmarking hospital interpreter spending. We shared the report at another panel session on interpreter productivity, and it is available for free with registration on our web site.

The fact that language service providers are shifting their gaze toward health care is a noteworthy trend. Cyracom -- the fifth-largest global telephone interpreting company on our latest ranking -- announced this month that it is rolling out a web-based translation ordering portal to support its client base of more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals. The ability to order translation services online is not exactly breaking news in the translation industry, but for hospitals and health care providers -- most of whom are in very early phases of localization maturity -- announcements like these have an important impact.

The reason? Most large-scale translation companies overlook the nearly 5,000 individual hospitals in the United States. As a result, over-the-phone interpretation companies that already offer translations and target these customers for their domestic spoken language needs may have found their translation niche. However, this does not mean competition is lacking -- a variety of non-profit initiatives have emerged to share resources and form collaborations across health care organizations for purposes of sharing translated materials:
  • Health Information Translations. This site -- formed by three of the largest health care organizations in the state of Ohio -- offers patient information in 17 languages, on topics such as disaster preparedness, surgeries, pregnancy, and various other subject areas.

  • EthnoMed. This initiative from the University of Washington started with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. It provides free access to patient education materials and information about numerous language and cultural groups.

  • National Network of Libraries of Medicine. This website includes links to an array of in-language materials and other resources.

  • Healthy Roads Media. This portal houses materials in 18 different languages in many formats, including print materials, audio, multimedia, web video, and mobile video (iPod).

  • 24 Languages Project. This effort from the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library has audio recordings and brochures in English as well as -- you guessed it -- 24 other languages.
Most recently, Polyglot Systems announced the award of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for the development of a Translated Document Assembly and Retrieval System (TDARS), a prototype platform for a national repository of customizable, translated documents. What remains to be seen is whether or not there will be national support for the project, and how it will differ from the non-profit initiatives mentioned above as well as for-profit programs such as wired.MD, the video-based education system owned by patient education publisher Krames that is available in eight languages.

Regardless, the many minority language patients throughout the world who suffer due to the unmet global demand for language services stand to benefit as the health care field continues to expand its focus on translation initiatives.


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