Don't speak English but need medical help? Not a problem if you are a CentraCare Health patient.
While not knowing the language can be a barrier to getting healthy, the health care provider offers interpreting services via Skype-like technology.
"We found CentraCare had provided health care to patients who spoke about 60 languages; we couldn't believe it," said Rosemond Owens, a cultural competency specialist at CentraCare.
"We had a patient from Mongolia in one instance ... but we didn't have enough interpreters to serve the needs of our patients, so we started looking for other avenues."
CentraCare uses wireless mobile touch screens to provide video remote interpreting by the Language Access Network (LAN) in more than 210 languages in addition to American Sign Language for the deaf and hard of hearing.
"We were looking for a device that would help us — even if the patient came from the moon — be ready to provide language access because in health care, the key is effective communication," she said.
Nurse Amy Amelsberg said the device, which has a built-in camera, is easy to use. "And I like the fact that you can have video, so I think it makes the experience more personable ... instead of just relying on audio."
The Martti touch screens — an acronym for "My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter" — allows patients, providers and interpreters to see each other while communicating in an environment compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
"If there's a reason we need to not have the video going for confidentiality reasons, depending upon what kind of exam is going on, there is a way that we can block the video part of it or switch it off," Amelsberg said.
Similar to Skype in which both parties can see and hear the other on their respective Marttis, the mobile devices connect trained medical interpreters with doctors and patients any time via live video.
"CentraCare has paid for a dedicated line for all of CentraCare, and we bought the machines, which is close to about $3,000; the service costs about $7,000 annually," Owens said. "We also have iPads that, if you cannot speak, you can write."
Haitian Creole was one of the more exotic languages that CentraCare Health used Martti for, according to Owens, who is from Ghana in western Africa.
"What we wanted was for no patient to come to any of CentraCare's entities without having access to an interpreter," she said. LAN's language centers are available on demand with Martti.
"Even if we don't know where the next patient is going to come from, in today's global world, we have to be ready."
Martti languages (available in video)
• American Sign Language / Arabic / Armenian / Bengali / Burmese / Cantonese
• Chin / Egyptian Arabic / Falam / Farsi / French / Haka Burmese / Hindi
• Hmong / Korean / Lautu / Maay-Maay / Mandarin / Mara
• Moroccan Arabic / Nepali / Portugese / Romanian / Russian
• Somali / Spanish / Tedim / Toishanese / Vietnamese / Zomi / Zophei
Follow Frank Lee on Twitter @fclgannett.