Telephone Interpretation Services Can Serve Hospitals Well

Speaking Together: National Language Services Network

Dates of Project: 2005 to 2010

Field of Work: Improving language services in hospitals.

Synopsis of the Work: Speaking Together: National Language Services Network was the first Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program to improve the delivery of language services to patients with limited English proficiency using standardized performance improvement measures and a quality improvement framework.

Ten hospitals throughout the country joined a collaborative learning network, developed strategies to improve the quality and accessibility of their language services, and tested them using five standardized performance improvement measures.

Story Told: Many hospitals in Speaking Together use telephone interpretation in their language services offerings for languages that only a small number of their patients speak. At the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, for example, Connie Standiford, MD, used the telephone interpretation service when she was at an off-site clinic meeting with a Chinese husband and wife. "I thought it was very respectful of the privacy of the patient. I could explain to each one what I was doing and it was more private than with someone [an interpreter] behind a curtain," she said.

This sidebar tells how the University of Michigan Health System and two other hospitals—UMass Memorial Medical Center, Worcester, Mass., Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.—used telephone interpretation.