Language no barrier to care

IT allows foreign patients to be treated in their own tongues,

By: Sasiwimon Boonruang

Bangkok Post

Whenever she saw a dentist, Naomi, a Japanese patient living in Bangkok, would struggle to explain her symptoms and find out what her options for treatment were. Now she can confidently communicate with the dentist at Bangkok Dental Centre thanks to face-to-face interaction with a Japanese interpreter on screen.

"Even though I would be able communicate with the doctor in English, I feel more secure speaking with them in my native language, especially if they can explain to me in Japanese about a critical part," she said.

Naomi said being able to communicate in her own language helps create the impression of being treated at home, and so she has also introduced her Japanese friends in Bangkok to the service. They are all pleased with it.

At Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre (BMC), information technology has been perfectly utilised to bridge language and cultural barriers.

The hospital has applied the Unified Communication technology to drive a patient-centric approach.

In the doctor's room, in addition to the computer monitor, camcorder and other standard medical equipment, one click on the Cisco IPT will connect the doctor and patient to the interpretation centre.

The doctor can then send the patient's information to the interpreter's screen, so that more definitive explanations can be made on both sides.

BMC Chief Operation Officer John Duke said BMC introduced the "Tele-interpreter" application as a pilot project around a year ago, in order to offer international patients the most accurate communication about their conditions and treatments. Feedback so far has been very positive.

BMC takes care of around 15,000 international patients a month and interpretation is one of the most crucial aspects of the service, Mr Duke noted.

Having launched in English, Japanese and Arabic, the Tele-interpreter service at BMC is now available in 26 languages, 24 hours a day.

Mr Duke explained that in case the required interpreter was not present at the interpretation centre, they would be able to offer mobile services by using wireless IP phone technology.

"This enables the interpreter who is at the nearest location to the request to pick up and communicate via the wireless IP phone," he said, noting that the phone screen displayed all details of the doctor's room.