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Online interpreter could aid communication with deaf patients

Nurses who are required to communicate with people who are deaf have been urged by a charity to consider using an online interpreter.

Satisfaction levels among deaf people over the healthcare they receive are lower than those experienced by hearing people, the 2011 GP Patient Survey revealed when it was published earlier this year.

Steve Powell, Chief Executive of healthcare charity SignHealth, said: “We have developed an online interpreting service called ‘SignTranslate’, which is accessed via a live webcam link to qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, and are hoping more health professionals will look at using the service.

“We developed SignTranslate to give online access to fully qualified interpreters at short notice. It provides instant help for healthcare staff who want to communicate with a deaf person.

“Using a webcam the patient and interpreter can see each other and sign the conversation with the doctor or medical professional.”

The results of the latest patient survey mirror the findings from the three previous years, revealing that levels of satisfaction among deaf people over the experience with their GP has not improved.

Mr Powell said: “If SignTranslate is available in every surgery, deaf people will be able to communicate more effectively with their GP, have a better understanding of their condition and therefore receive better healthcare.

“No specialist equipment is needed to use SignTranslate. All that is required is a webcam with a PC or laptop, and an interpreter can be available within minutes, making it much easier than using face-to-face interpreters, who often have to be booked a long time before an appointment.

“It also means there are no delays and no travel expenses. SignTranslate is free to sign language users and is very competitively priced for service providers.”

There are no set up fees or monthly charges, health professionals will only pay for the time used, he added.

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