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Healthwise: Video Sign Language

December 14, 2011

Martha Jefferson Hospital is using a new tool, a service called Video Sign Language Interpretation. It is helping hearing impaired people in Charlottesville.

"It allows patients to ask questions," said Cyndi Crawford, a registered nurse at MJH. "Patients that are hearing impaired or have family members that are hearing impaired, it allows them to communicate effectively with their care team, whether it's the nurses or the doctor."

The care team can request a sign language interpreter. After the computer is wheeled into the patient's room, doctors and nurses select either American or Spanish Sign Language, then then click the "locate agent" button.

"Once the interpreter is available it's like a picture in picture screen that the patient can see," said Crawford.

The interpreter can talk to both the patients and the care providers.

"The interpreter then signs the appropriate question or answer to the patient and once the patient understands they sign what they need to communicate to the interpreters," said Crawford.

The new service is beneficial for patients, especially in emergency situations. With one click of a mouse, the interpreter appears right on the screen.

"It definitely affects the patients outcome. We do want a positive patient outcome and that (video sign language interpreter) does allow it because it's a 24/7 accessibility even if the patient comes in through the ER," said Crawford. "It allows us to communicate what needs to be done and what the patient should expect."

It also helps get essential information to doctors and nurses quickly.

"It's also important to know if they have any cultural beliefs that may play a factor in the recovery, whether they want to receive blood products," said Crawford.

Although it is still a new program at the Martha Jefferson Hospital, health care providers say it is changing care for patients, one signed word a time.

All signed conversations are confidential.

Crawford says hospitals are required to have interpreters so in addition to the video interpreter there is a phone interpreter for patients as well.


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