How to Improve Patient Flow

March 15, 2016

Written By: James "Jamey" Edwards

As every aspect of our lives gets busier, our expectations have changed with them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s our local coffee shop or the hospital ER, we no longer expect to wait for service. But while businesses such as restaurants have been quick to accept these changes and act accordingly, many healthcare services still struggle to find the balance between efficiency and providing a positive experience for patients. Well designed patient flow is key to ensuring that your hospital remains profitable while achieving what it set out to do in the first place – help people in need.

It’s no coincidence that healthcare services have a harder time achieving efficient patient flow than many other industries; few sectors are as heavily regulated as healthcare. But despite this, healthcare remains one of the most important areas for finding the balance between patient satisfaction and efficiency.

In an environment where resources and tempers are often stretched, effective patient flow can make the difference to patients and providers alike. The benefits are tangible: shorter waiting room queues, less strain on doctors, more accurate diagnoses and better patient outcomes.

One of the major considerations for patient flow is language. One in five people over the age of five in the US speak a language other than English at home, according to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data. That means that the odds of a limited English proficiency (LEP) patient walking through the doors of your hospital are higher than at any other point in history. In the absence of properly trained medical interpreters, language difficulties and cultural misalignment combine to create an opportunity for miscommunication, resulting in not only delays and bottlenecks but potentially serious consequences for patient outcomes. Statistics have shown that these patients simply do not receive the same standard of care as their English speaking counterparts and are more likely to experience harm due to language and cultural barriers.

With some hospitals now dealing with hundreds of languages in their local area (Columbus, OH, for example sees over 126 languages in their waiting rooms), it is no longer possible for multi-lingual hospital staff to provide interpretation. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services such as Martti provide healthcare professionals with instantaneous access to medically trained interpreters with just the touch of a finger. Beyond the time saved by not having to wait for an interpreter, these services contribute to improved patient flow by de-bottlenecking the consultation process and reducing the stress on doctors as they attempt to effectively diagnose patients.

Another factor for improving patient flow is designing waiting rooms and patient pathways with the movement of patients and practitioners in mind. Simple operational changes such as allocating space for patients filling out forms can reduce congestion at check-in counters and smooth patients’ movements through the consultation process. Seemingly obvious improvements such as clear signage are often overlooked in healthcare environments, and need to cater for non-English speaking patients as well.

Other tactics for optimizing patient flow within your practice include making workstations readily available for doctors to write up their notes on the go, rather than returning to their offices.

Keep in mind that healthcare can learn from other industries. One of things holding our system back from radical improvement is our belief that healthcare is different. This belief has made us risk averse and fearful of innovation. It’s time to put those fears aside and open our perspectives up to solutions from outside our own sometimes myopic industry focus. In fact, many of the improvements applicable to patient flow come from the retail and manufacturing sectors, which have dedicated years of research to this problem.

So the next time you’re picking up your morning coffee, stop for a moment and observe how people move and communicate – you might find the key to improving patient flow.

Request a demo to see how VRI can improve patient flow in your hospital

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Melina’s Story

February 17, 2016

Written By: James "Jamey" Edwards

As our country becomes more diverse, our goal is to embrace that diversity and not let language or culture drive us apart, but rather bring us together to connect.

Communication is fundamental to each patient and provider encounter. Without it, patients AND providers suffer.

Imagine being in a foreign country where you don’t know the language.

You have been injured.

You show up to the ER and people are racing around you yelling things you don’t understand.

Tests are being run and things are happening to you with no explanation.

Sound scary?

It is and it happens at hospitals across our nation each and every day.

Restoring communication does more than get the point across. It allows a provider to order the proper tests. It reduces their anxiety and the patients during their stay. It restores dignity and drives satisfaction. It saves time and money.

As our country becomes more diverse, our goal is to embrace that diversity and not let language or culture drive us apart, but rather bring us together to connect. It is those connections that matter. That create meaning in our work and life. What follows is an example of how our commitment to breaking down barriers is improving healthcare in our country. Thank you for letting us share them with you and feel free to reach out at anytime if we can be of any service.

On a late Friday evening last July, Melina walked into a hospital with intense pain in her chest. A seasonal worker from Bolivia, Melina had just finished her shift when she started having trouble breathing. Speaking only a dialect of Quechua, Melina couldn’t tell the nurse what was happening, or how she could help. With the pain intensifying, Melina was beginning to panic. The doctors initially thought it was trauma to her lungs, but they couldn’t figure out exactly what she was trying to communicate.

“I was very short of breath and the doctors couldn’t understand what I was trying to tell them,” said Melina. “I couldn’t lie down to sleep; it put too much pressure on my chest.”

The providers used Martti™ and at the touch of a button were connected to a Certified Medical Interpreter within 30 seconds. With trusted communication restored, the doctors were able to ascertain that her lymphatic system was leaking exceeding large amounts of fluid into her chest and abdomen. With the help of the interpreter, she survived and fully recovered.

At Language Access Network, we provide life-saving communication and are partnered with over 500 hospitals and high-end tertiary facilities, such as Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering and The Ohio State University Medical Center.

We provide state of the art communication technologies and real-time access to certified medical interpreters skilled in over 250 different languages. We ensure that language doesn’t become a barrier to a healthcare professional’s ability to provide the right treatment for every patient’s needs.

We utilize video based technology, Martti™ (My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter), which ensures that Limited English Proficient (LEP), Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing patients have equal access to clear, concise communication with those who care for them. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 250 languages, we’re proud to help drive patient and provider satisfaction, increase diagnoses speed, and improve outcomes for patients just like Melina.

To keep up to date on how you can reduce risk, diagnose accurately and save lives with Martti™.


Humanizing Healthcare: Ron’s First Delivery

January 19, 2016

Written By: James "Jamey" Edwards

“We are a mission driven company.”

How many times have you heard that before? It’s easy enough for companies to say it, or pay lip service to their mission, but living your mission every day with every customer is an entirely different thing.

Our mission to, “Improve healthcare by eliminating language and cultural barriers,” is one we take to heart, because with each and every patient – provider encounter, we are there, helping a scared patient understand what is happening to them, empowering them and their healthcare provider to take control of their care, build a trusted relationship and improve their outcome.

Our stories from the field are everyday stories of breaking down barriers, overcoming obstacles and well, triumph. Triumph over the overwhelming adversity that patients and providers face when they can’t do one of things most fundamental to being human: talking to each other. We are happy to share these stories to bring awareness to the great work that our interpreters do each and everyday on the front lines of medicine.

Thank you for allowing us to share what inspires us to continue to do more, improve and deliver our mission with the same commitment to excellence that our clients have grown to expect from Language Access Network. We hope it inspires you to do the same.

Ron, a Nationally Certified Medical Spanish language interpreter for LAN, was connected in to assist doctors with the delivery of a baby. He worked closely with the mother and with Dr. Adam Kansagor from Aultman University. The woman did not speak any English. Ron played a critical role in the delivery of the baby due to the quality training he received. This is due in large part to the training that qualified him as a medically trained interpreter for Language Access Network.

These days, it is critical to know that you are working with a Nationally Certified Medical interpreter. Communication can be seriously impaired if a health care provider is unaware of, or insensitive to the role of culture norms. Miscommunication can increase the risk of medical errors, inappropriate treatments, and emergency room visits.

A study by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2012 analyzed interpreter errors that had clinical consequences. They found an error rate of 12 percent as opposed to 22 percent. For professionals who have more than 100 hours of training, these errors dropped to 2 percent.

We’re proud of the fact that our spoken language and American Sign Language interpreters complete Bridging the Gap, a nationally recognized 40 hour Medical Interpreter training program. Additionally, they are required to take a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education and specialty training each year.  This doesn’t include the countless hours of training that go training these interpreters to be prepared for video as well as the specialty trainings our interpreters undergo on a regular basis for things like pastoral care, mental health, pediatrics, and others.

For us, the proof is in seeing interpreters like Ron work with Martti™ alongside medical practitioners to assist with earning their patients’ trust. Thanks to Martti™, our interpreters are able to ensure that the doctors can better understand their patient’s symptoms, medical history, make a more accurate diagnosis, and provide safer, more precise, more complete care. To keep up to date on how you can reduce risk, diagnose accurately and save lives with Martti.