The COVID-19 Pandemic is providing a strange opportunity for systematic change to professional interpreting services in various medical settings. It has drastically changed how we live all aspects of our lives, and it continues to call into question the efficacy of our health care system. When face-to-face appointments were no longer primary options for patients due to social distancing recommendations and requirements, Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) increased very rapidly, depending on the geographic location. Some hospitals registered increased VRI appointments prior to COVID from 10 to 15 per month, to currently around 100 to 200 per month.
In general, tele-health encompasses a broad range of provider-patient communication through online portals and audio or video enabled tools. One main hinderance with these modes of communication is the internet-issue; use and expansion of these VRI and telehealth services depend on the patients’ familiarity with required technology, internet access, and how we communicate telehealth services to those trying to enroll. According to Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, in 2019, a higher proportion of Hispanic patients did not have internet access at home, with 24% of Hispanic seniors lacking access, compared to 18% of all seniors.