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Jan. 12, 2014 - New Stratus Interpretation System Could Bridge Language Gap Between Patient, Provider


Teri Lee RN, MSN (right), Staff Development Inservice Specialist at USA Children's & Women's Hospital, shows Amanda Rocker RN, High Risk OB/GYN Nurse how to use the Stratus video interpreting system.

A new device being tested at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital (CW) should make it easier for patients and families to communicate with their doctors and nurses, even when they don’t speak the same language.

Almost daily, the staff treats patients who are not native speakers of English, says Teresa Lee, a clinical educator who joined the CW staff in late summer.

Up until now, when the need arose, the hospital has worked with a phone-based system for most languages or sought out American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to come to the patient’s bedside. But ASL interpreters aren’t always available, and telephone isn’t the ideal way to share information, especially about medications, which often have sound-alike names.


The new system, an application called Stratus, is a video remote interpretation system that uses an iPad to link patients, caregivers and interpreters via video chat called FaceTime, Lee says. The iPad is secured to a stand so it’s easy to find, handle and move when needed.

The app provides a secure connection to a Stratus call center, where interpreters can provide assistance with Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic and several other languages, as well as American sign language, throughout the working day and well into the evening.

The interpreters, working from 33 call centers, are medically certified.

And the app includes a white board feature, says Lee, so that words that might be hard to hear clearly or that sound very much like similar words — medication names are a great example — can be written down for clarity.

When talking face-to-face with patient or family is best, there’s a video image. When privacy is important, the camera can be turned off.

Lee has recently completed training with the new app and is helping others in the hospital learn to get the most from it.

“This process is a big improvement over our old system that allowed audio interpretation over the telephone,” says Denise Anderson, director of Care Management at CW.  “Telephone interpretation is cumbersome and strictly audio interpretation misses body language clues that are so essential in determining understanding.  

“This interpreting service is being pilot tested and evaluated,” Anderson adds, “but we are optimistic the process will better meet the needs of our patients and their families.”


About USA Children's & Women's Hospital

The University of South Alabama Children's & Women's Hospital is among a handful of freestanding hospitals in the United States dedicated specifically to the health care needs of children and women. USACWH health care professionals are uniquely qualified and equipped to provide a wide range of therapeutic and surgical services for children and women, be it life-threatening illness, traumatic injury, premature birth or high-risk obstetrical and gynecological needs.

USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is the Mobile area’s leading provider of health services for newborn babies and their mothers. The Labor & Delivery Unit successfully delivers more than 2,800 babies each year, an average of five to 15 babies each day, which is twice as many births as any other hospital in Mobile. The unit also features 15 private birthing suites promoting family-centered care and three operating rooms for cesarean section deliveries and other obstetric procedures.

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