Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

MS in Physician Assistant Studies (PA)


Physician Assistant Studies


This study examines the significance of language access in healthcare and the transformative impact of technology-based interpreting modalities. Language barriers in healthcare can lead to misunderstandings and negative health outcomes for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients. The case study presents a Safety Net hospital, Hennepin Healthcare System (HHS), which successfully transitioned from in-person to a hybrid model utilizing Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) and Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI). Data analysis revealed improved productivity, reduced wait times, and surplus budget. The study challenges misconceptions around technology-based interpreting and recommends standardized protocols, interpreter documentation, and interhospital collaboration. By embracing technology and cultural understanding, healthcare organizations can enhance language access, improve outcomes, and reduce disparities among vulnerable populations.

Background: Effective language access services are crucial in healthcare settings to provide quality care and better health outcomes for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). With over 25 million LEP individuals in the US, language barriers pose significant challenges for accessing healthcare. Federal and state laws mandate language assistance for LEP patients to address healthcare disparities. Purpose: This paper aims to explore the unregulated and understudied medical interpreter career, especially in the context of technology-based language services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to develop flexible, patient-centered, and community-based standards for language access. Problem and PICO question: The lack of community standards for interpreter modalities in medical encounters during the pandemic is perplexing. The PICO question is: What medical encounters should utilize which interpreting modality? Methods: The study surveyed four hospital systems in the Twin Cities metro area in 2021, gathering data on their interpreter services departments, including total LEP patient encounters, the proportion of in-person vs. technology-based modalities, and criteria for prioritizing in- person interpreting. HHS interpreter productivity data was also obtained with permission for use in a master's paper and publications. Literature review involved selecting articles discussing interpreter modalities from Google Scholar and PubMed. Conclusions: The pandemic shifted the language service industry towards technology-based modalities, but the lack of community standards remains a challenge. Key Words: Video Remote Interpreter (VRI), Technology-based interpreters, In-person Interpreter modality, teleinterpreting, phone interpreting, interpreter modality, telehealth for language access.


SC 11.PAS.2023.Aden.M

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