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Earlier this month, UHN launched the first in-hospital interpretation call centre in Canada. The centre is a dedicated space where interpreters provide their services via phone.
Traditional face-to-face interpreters can work with only four to six patients each day. They spend most of their time in waiting rooms and travelling. Phone interpreters don't have to travel between sites and clinics, or wait in waiting rooms. This means they can serve up to six patients in just an hour.
Face-to-face interpreters are still preferable for long appointments, for patients who are hard of hearing, mental health encounters, and when discussing sensitive issues, such as a negative diagnosis or palliative care. Phone interpretation is most effective for short encounters, especially in busy clinics where face-to-face interpreters spend most of their time waiting.
Phone interpretation now represents over 25% of all interpreter-facilitated encounters at UHN. As the demand increases, so does the expense for the contracted service. By creating an in-hospital call centre, staff interpreters can provide the service at a fraction of the cost, and thus serve many more patients with the same resources.
In the US, such call centres are standard in large urban centres. UHN has followed this model and is now leading the way in Canada to increase access, keep costs down, and ultimately set a higher standard of patient-centred care for our limited-English proficiency patients.