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Video app lets Northwell paramedics communicate with non-English speakers

The new service, called LanguageLine, can also help first responders communicate with the hearing-impaired, the health system said. 

Northwell Health paramedic Danielle Conigliaro calls up a

Northwell Health paramedic Danielle Conigliaro calls up a LanguageLine translator using the app on an iPad. Photo Credit: Northwell Health / Lee Weissman

Northwell Health said Monday it has started to deploy a video language interpreting service  that will help first responders communicate in real time with non-English speakers and the hearing impaired.

Northwell said its Center for Emergency Medical Services, in collaboration with California-based LanguageLine Solutions, will be the first ambulances in the state to use the technology, which works through app-enabled iPads.

LanguageLine-enabled devices will be available throughout Northwell’s fleet of more than 80 ambulances by the end of the year. A third of the vehicles routinely operate in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Half of Northwell’s EMS translation service calls originate from the boroughs of New York. Thirty-six languages are covered by the video interpreter, while another 240 can be translated via audio.

Unlike telephonic translation, 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.

Northwell said the new system leaves less room for misunderstanding.

“Having the ability to quickly access a video translator 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,” Sinaka Javorovac, a Northwell paramedic, said in a statement.

The video translation service is already available at hospitals throughout the health system and replaces a phone-based translation option.

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