Service Provides Hospitals On-Demand Translation A new service may make it easier for hospitals to help non-English speaking people. It's an instant interpreter service.

Service Provides Hospitals On-Demand Translation

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Each year, millions of non-English speaking people arrive at emergency rooms across the U.S. Interpreters are often needed to bridge the doctor-patient language gap. But it's not always that easy. Interpreters are expensive and often hard to find. A new instant interpreter service may significantly improve the process. Mandy Trimble of member station WOSU in Columbus, Ohio reports.

MANDY TRIMBLE: For some, a trip to the emergency room means the likelihood of another long wait. But for those who don't speak English, the experience can be terrifying and confusing. Consider Sandra Orantes(ph), who enters the E.R. at the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus seeking a doctor. But Orantes doesn't speak English. Many hospitals try to call in an interpreter, but that can be lengthy and very expensive process.

Today, Orantes is motioned to sit on the waiting room while someone gets a MARTTI, which stands for My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter. It uses a flat screen monitor with a webcam attached to the top of it. The apparatus sits atop a tall stand on wheels, and with a press of a button, a Spanish-speaking interpreter pops up on the screen.

Ms. SAUNDRA ORANTES (Patient): (Speaking Spanish)

Unidentified Woman #1 (Interpreter): I feel like I'm going to faint.

Unidentified Woman #2: Have her sit down.

Unidentified Woman #1 (Interpreter): (Speaking Spanish)

TREMBLE: In the past, Orantes has waited as long as five hours for an interpreter to arrive. But today she was able to relay her symptoms to a doctor within minutes.

Noga Lidden(ph) is a Somali interpreter for the Language Access Network, the Columbus-based company that makes the MARTTIs. Interpreters are available 24/7. Libben lists some of the language is available today during her shift.

Ms. NOGA LIDDEN (Interpreter): We have American sign language, Russian, Spanish, Somali, Cantonese, Mandarin, Cajun Creole, Portuguese, and we also have a connection to 150 different other languages.

TREMBLE: OSU doctor David Baner(ph) likes this new service and says MARRTI is much more efficient than having an interpreter.

Dr. DAVID BANER (Ohio State University Medical Center): It's been very successful. Not only it be more efficient, but also to have the wide variety of languages represented.

TREMBLE: Andrew Panos is president of the Language Access Network, which developed the MARTTI system. He says not only does the on-demand system enable medical staff to take better care of its patients, it also cuts down on unnecessary testing.

Mr. ANDREW PANOS (President, Language Access Network): You have someone that comes in, and the night before they had three Domino's pizzas and a 12 pack of beer, and they've got a horrible stomach ache, and the doctor who doesn't know really what's going on, so he orders an extensive amount of testing to find out the guy needs a couple of Rolaids.

TREMBLE: The company says there are other systems similar to theirs, but none with a network that spans the country. OSU officials say they like the new service and encourage other hospitals to see if it would also help them treat their patients who don't speak English.

For NPR News, I'm Mandy Tremble in Columbus.

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