Is Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)- the Future of Medicine?







What is Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) Anyway?


Video Remote Interpreting or VRI is a contracted video enabling service, that combines technology like web cameras and video phones, to allow sign language and spoken language interpreting services to be conducted remotely; as long as all parties have an unobstructed view or can hear the interpreter and vice versa. For example, if a fully deaf patient goes to a routine physical appointment, they can request VRI capability if available at their hospital. During the appointment, the interpreter will most likely be working elsewhere while the patient, doctor and VRI machine are physically present in the examination room. The remote interpreter would hear everything that is being said through the microphone embedded in the device, and be able see everything that is going on during the appointment through the camera. The camera function allow interpreters to communicate back to the patient in sign language, by appearing on the display screen in front of them at the doctor's office. Typically, video remote interpreting is a contracted service used by a variety of organizations to help them communicate with Limited English Proficient or Deaf/Hard of Hearing clients.


Video Interpreting and the L.E.P Community

It is no secret that the lack of language accessibility in immigration and medicine, has been a major barrier for Hospitals in terms of delivering accurate, and quality care to Limited English proficient (LEP) individuals; especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. With Video Remote Interpreting services becoming more readily available, hospital emergency rooms are some of the first locations to experience the benefits with LEP persons. In all medical emergencies, but especially those that are life threatening, hospitals with VRI Interpreting capability allow doctors to communicate with the patient and their caregiver almost immediately without having to wait hours for an interpreter to show up. To those who don't speak English as a primary language, and those who work with them in public service fields (education, government, healthcare etc) often see the advent of such technology as essential- without which their jobs would be nearly impossible. When hospitals provide video interpreting services to those with limited English ability (like refugees or immigrants) or those who live in remote areas, the quality of care increases greatly with VRI.


Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community Response to VRI

In recent years, Video interpreting by using VRI services in medical settings has exploded- without input from the community and without meaningful regulation of how remote video interpreting is used. Too many medical providers have decided that video remote interpreting is the sole aid option and the deaf community is left feeling it's inappropriate to be limited to a single option. The concern regarding the over-reliance on the technology stems from thousands of lawsuits, in which many deaf or hard of hearing individualsVideo Remote Interpreter training ability to watch the screen or to sign clearly to the camera was compromised. While businesses and organizations maintain that remote video interpreting meets or exceeds the minimum threshold for reasonable accommodation, many deaf or hard of hearing people persist in their pursuit of quality communication standards. Asking that medical providers conduct periodic assessments of communication- including consultations with their patients about the effectiveness of the communication aids and the openness to make adjustments going forward. The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights has continually required that medical providers make qualified interpreters available to deaf and hard of hearing clients in lieu of the lawsuits filed, stating "it would be extremely difficult for the health care provider to demonstrate in certain service settings, that effective communication is being provided in the absence of interpreters."


Despite the unfortunate situations that required lawsuits involving VRI in medical settings, they have provided the necessary framework to increase the minimum standards for a quality remote video interpreting session. More importantly, medical providers must be given guidance on what is required for an optimal VRI enhanced medical procedure- even if it's just a routine checkup. Some of which, out of many include:

  • Medical providers ensuring high speed internet connection and a devoted bandwidth for VRI services to prevent high quality audio & visual experiences
  • Firewalls that protect information but don't impair video transmission
  • Encrypting transmissions
  • No interference of signals from other medical equipment
  • The medical provider must ensure video interpreters meet the minimum technical standards from their end
  • Video cameras should be unobstructed to the individuals and positioned comfortably
  • Video screens should be flexible, adjustable and stable
  • Lighting must be optimal with no backlighting
  • Equipment must be tested once a week



If you or someone you know is interested in our online Video Remote Interpreting Training class with live instructors, our classes are offered in SpanishPortugueseArabicRussianChineseHaitian Creole or Vietnamese languages.

Get the necessary online interpreter training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for one of our online interpreter training programs: Online Medical Interpreter TrainingOnline Legal Interpreter Training, Online Immigration Interpreter Training


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Molly Romano

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