New translation service available at KGH

News / General
By Meaghan Quinn

Telephone service a benefit for patients, families and staff

A new service has arrived at Kingston General Hospital that will make finding a translator for any language as easy as picking up the phone.

On July 1, KGH introduced a new phone-in translation service called Language Line. This new service gives staff access to more than 200 languages at any time of the day or night.

“Instead of having to track down a translator and wait for them to arrive, all staff will have to do is call Language Line, share some basic information around the patient and their language needs and then be connected to the appropriate translator,” says Katie Ireland, Patient Relations and Quality Advisor.

Previously, the process of finding a translator to meet the needs of individual patients could be quite difficult. First, a translator who spoke the appropriate language would need to be found. Then staff along with the patient and their family would need to wait for the translator to arrive at the hospital. Depending on where the translator was located, there could be a lengthy wait for their arrival.

“In the past it wasn’t unheard of to have to wait several hours for a translator to arrive from Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa, depending on what the language needs were for that particular patient,” said Ireland.

With this new system, when the patient identifies that they need translation, they can point out their language needs using a newly created language identification guide. Staff will then simply dial Language Line from the patient’s bedside phone or hospital portable phone and provide the Hospital Access Number when prompted. This will connect them to the operator who will ask a few basic questions before connecting them to the appropriate translator. 

Studies show that this new system will provide significant benefit for both the hospital and patients. Language barriers can result in longer hospital stays, as well as more testing and misdiagnosis. They can also decrease patient understanding of their illness, treatment and follow-up. In addition to making translation more efficient, switching to a phone translation service is also a significant cost saving for KGH as there won’t be the need to cover travel time and meal costs for translators.