Providing a Spanish interpreter using low-cost videoconferencing in a community study computers

James L Wofford, Claudia L Campos, Dominic A Johnson, Monica T Brown


Background The advent of more mobile, more reliable, and more affordable videoconferencing technology finally makes it realistic to offer remote foreign language interpretation in the office setting. Still, such technologies deserve proof of acceptability to clinicians and patients before there is widespread acceptance and routine use.

Objective We sought to examine: (1) the audio and video technical fidelity of iPad/Facetime software, (2) the acceptability of videoconferencing to patients and clinicians.

Methods The convenience sample included Spanish-speaking adult patients at a community health care medicine clinic in 2011. Videoconferencing was conducted using two iPads connecting patient/physician located in the clinic examination room, and the interpreter in a remote/separate office in the same building. A five-item survey was used to solicit opinions on overall quality of the videoconferencing device, audio/video integrity/fidelity, perception of encounter duration, and attitude toward future use.

Results Twenty-five patients, 18 clinicians and 5 interpreters participated in the project. Most patients (24/25) rated overall quality of videoconferencing as good/excellent with only 1 ‘fair’ rating. Eleven patients rated the amount of time as no longer than in-person, and nine reported it as shorter than in person. Most patients, 94.0% (24/25), favoured using videoconferencing during future visits. For the 18 clinicians, the results were similar.

Conclusions Based on our experience at a single-site community health centre, the videoconferencing technology appeared to be flawless, and both patients and clinicians were satisfied. Expansion of videoconferencing to other off-site healthcare professionals should be considered in the search for more cost-effective healthcare.


interpreter perspective; language access; medical interpretation; remote interpretation; videoconferencing

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