How telemedicine left behind non-English speakers

Non-English speaking patients struggle to access telemedicine as video visit services don't always offer proper translations or third-party interpreters, The Verge reported Feb. 24.

In a study published Feb. 10 in ScienceDirect researchers assessed telemedicine experiences from two California-based Federally Quality Health Centers from December 2020 to April 2021. Both health centers served a large immigrant population.

The researchers found that non-English speaking patients couldn't set up Zoom for telemedicine visits due to the frequently asked questions section on video visit applications being written in English or being poorly translated into other languages. They also found that third-party interpreters, for non-English speaking patients, were difficult to integrate into telemedicine platforms as patients must call interpreters from their personal phone in order to conference them into the Zoom call.

Denise Payán, assistant professor of health, society and behavior of Irvine-based University of California, said the study findings show how crucial it is for telehealth platforms to consider vulnerable users when developing tools to meet the needs of a diverse patient population.

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