Improvements in patient care: videoconferencing to improve access to interpreters during clinical consultations for refugee and immigrant patients

Thomas Ray Schulz, Karin Sharona Leder, Ismail Akinci, Beverley-Ann Biggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To demonstrate the suitability of accessing interpreters via videoconference for medical consultations and to assess doctor and patient perceptions of this compared with either on-site or telephone interpreting. Methods We assessed the suitability and acceptability of accessing interpreters via videoconference during out-patient clinical consultations in two situations: (i) when the doctor and patient were in a consulting room at a central hospital and the interpreter sat remotely; and (ii) when the doctor, patient and interpreter were each at separate sites (during a telehealth consultation). The main outcome measures were patient and doctor satisfaction, number of problems recorded and acceptability compared with other methods for accessing an interpreter. Results Ninety-eight per cent of patients were satisfied overall with the use of an interpreter by video. When comparing videoconference interpreting with telephone interpreting, 82 of patients thought having an interpreter via video was better or much better, 15 thought it was the same and 3 considered it worse. Compared with on-site interpreting, 16 found videoconferencing better or much better, 58 considered it the same and 24 considered it worse or much worse. Conclusions The present study has demonstrated that accessing an interpreter via videoconference is well accepted and preferred to telephone interpreting by both doctors and patients. What is known about the topic? Many immigrants and refugees settle in rural Australia. Access to professional on-site interpreters is difficult, particularly in rural Australia. What does this study add? Interpreters can be successfully accessed by videoconference. Patients and doctors prefer an interpreter accessed by videoconference rather than a telephone interpreter. What are the implications for practitioners? Doctors can utilise videoconferencing to access interpreters if this is available, confident that this is well accepted by patients and preferred to telephone interpreting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395 - 399
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this