The statistics are staggering.
According to the World Health Organization, the simple failure to follow doctor’s orders results in 125,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
The most common reason: Poor communication. Doctors misunderstand the symptoms their patients describe, or patients fail to comprehend the doctor’s orders. Either way, such situations present both potential tragedy and enormous malpractice risk for hospitals and clinics.
That risk increases exponentially for Deaf people.
For example, if a Deaf patient comes into an emergency room pointing to her chest, doctors and nurses often struggle to understand exactly what the problem is. Without proper interpretation between the Deaf patient and the hearing healthcare provider, potentially life-threatening symptoms can go untreated, leading to permanent disability or death – and the malpractice suit that is sure to follow.
In addition, Deaf patients need clear instructions for post-treatment care, especially for prescription medications. Even among hearing patients, the issue of improperly following prescriptions is so widespread that it’s been called “the world’s other drug problem.” Failing to take extra care in communicating with Deaf patients can lead to results that are nothing short of disastrous.
Hospitals, urgent-care clinics, and nursing homes that utilize sign language interpreting services reduce their risk of liability dramatically. And failing to offer such services is not only unwise – it’s against the law. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires medical facilities and any other public entity to provide interpretation services for Deaf people.
It’s no different than providing an accessibility ramp or a special restroom for people who have a disability. The law requires it.
However, basic compliance with the law isn’t enough.
Even having a family member or friend isn’t sufficient. They aren’t likely know how to ethically remain impartial as in interpreter and to appropriately interpret medical terminology from spoken English into American Sign Language and vice versa. Also, medical treatment for Deaf people without proper interpretation can be traumatic.
It is difficult for hearing people to understand how dehumanizing it is to be poked and prodded without communicating with you.
Thanks to modern technology, having an interpreter on-site isn’t the only solution. DSU provides Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services that use a high-speed internet connection and laptop computer or tablet to provide access to an off-site interpreter.
It’s like having a specialized medical interpreter right there in the examining room. VRI allows hospital and clinic staff to relax and provide the absolute best patient care for every patient, no matter their ability to hear.
All interpreters are not created equal. Simply repeating words does not meet the patient’s needs. For medical situations, you need an interpreter who understands the unique language of medicine. There are some instances where VRI isn’t an ideal accommodation. One of our interpreters recently worked with a Deaf patient receiving pain management treatment. This interpreter physically got on the floor so they could see the patient who was lying face-down on a table. Our staff is available 24/7 to help you determine if on-site or VRI is most appropriate.