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Northwell equips ambulances with video remote interpreting access

Northwell Health Paramedic Danielle Conigliaro calls up a LanguageLine translator via an app on an iPad.
Northwell Health Paramedic Danielle Conigliaro calls up a LanguageLine translator via an app on an iPad.

EMS providers get important tool to render quick aid


Northwell Health has begun deploying a video remote interpreting service through app-enabled iPads to its fleet of ambulances in an effort to help first responders communicate in real-time with non-English speakers and the deaf or hard of hearing.

Northwell’s Center for Emergency Medical Services (CEMS), in collaboration with California-based LanguageLine Solutions, will be the first ambulances in New York State to use the technology. Monday also kicks off National Emergency Medical Services Week.

“Having this technology in the hands of our EMS providers will be a tremendous asset and will strengthen the capacity of our first responders to serve our communities each and every day,” said Alan Schwalberg, vice president of Northwell’s CEMS.

LanguageLine-enabled devices will be available throughout Northwell’s fleet of more than 80 ambulances by the end of the year, a third of which routinely operate in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Half of Northwell’s EMS interpreting service calls originate from the New York City region. 

Video translation on demand

Unlike telephonic interpreting, which requires phoning into a call center and then passing the handset back and forth, the LanguageLine app allows first responders and patients to select the appropriate language and see an interpreter in less than 30 seconds. Text is also displayed. It’s quicker, more efficient and leaves less room for misunderstanding, all of which are critical during an emergency intervention.

Such face-to-face interaction sets a more humanistic tone during a medical intervention, which can be scary in its own right, and gives the impression of the interpreter advocating for the patient while seemingly in the same room.

“Having the ability to quickly access a video interpreter while treating patients who are having difficulty communicating with us, whether in their home or on the sidewalk, will only expedite and improve the delivery of my care to them,” said Sinaka Javorovac, a Northwell paramedic.

The video interpreting service is already available at hospitals throughout the health system.

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