News | March 26, 2014

Nine-Year Old Girl Dies Due To Language Barrier, Interpreting Absence At Hospital—Stratus Video Says Lack Of Industry Standardization Creating Healthcare Hazard

Initially inspired by the deaf community to reduce language barriers that threaten healthcare facilities’ quality of service and patient safety, Stratus Video Interpreting developed Video Remote Interpreting, an advanced technology that combines the benefits of a face-to-face session with the convenience of on-demand interpreting for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients.

The number of patients in the U.S. who do not speak English or speak only limited English has risen in recent decades, presenting a challenge to healthcare systems to provide high-quality, patient-centered care for this group—in fact, a new study found that Chinese and Spanish speakers were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than English speakers (1). According to Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) company Stratus Video Interpreting, the increasingly diverse population is largely the impetus for increasing language barriers in U.S. hospitals—a sentiment echoed by reports that more than 90 percent of hospitals said they see Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients frequently, and 97 percent see them daily (2) ). As a company dedicated to eliminating language barriers throughout the U.S., Stratus offers an advanced system that connects healthcare facilities with a cloud-based network of certified spoken language interpreters with the ability to translate over 175 different spoken and sign languages.

Twenty-one million Americans have LEP, meaning they possess a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English (3)—and reports show that failing to remove language barriers in a healthcare facility can potentially result in life-and-death situations. In the case of a nine-year old girl, the lapse resulted in fatal consequences

In the Tran case, the patient, a nine-year old Vietnamese girl, died from a reaction to the drug Reglan. Her parents primarily spoke Vietnamese, yet no competent interpreter was used throughout the child’s encounters with the medical system. Instead, records show that the patient and her 16-year-old brother served as interpreters. In the subsequent lawsuit, an expert witness who was a professional interpreter testified that “the parents were not able to adequately understand and address [the patient’s] medical needs—the failure of the doctor and the facility to provide a professional medical interpreter was a substantial factor in causing [patient]’s death.” (4)

Although awareness of the need for better language support services in healthcare has increased during the past decade, progress has been limited and lacks standardization on a national scale, per Stratus CEO Sean Belanger. In addition to the potentially fatal risks, language barriers between physicians and patients are also associated with repeat visits to the emergency room, longer hospital stays, and an increased number and severity of medical errors(5).

“Language barriers make it difficult for communication between doctor and patient, but most importantly, they put patients’ safety at risk—and that’s a danger too big to take when the situation can be remedied with certified interpreters and technology,” said Belanger.

Stratus’ interpreting service is an application that can be loaded onto any PC, Mac, Smartphone or Tablet; the technology can even be applied to Polycom and Cisco systems. Through a virtual private network, an encrypted call is placed to one of Stratus’ 33 video call centers across the U.S., and the next available interpreter in that language is found and connected.

Stratus specializes in medical and court interpreting, but the company’s technology is applicable to every industry. Stratus employs experienced, highly-qualified interpreters who can either be used to supplement an existing interpreting infrastructure or to replace live and over-the-phone interpreters altogether.

“Through providing information, comfort, advocacy and support, we save lives every day; we give a voice to the voiceless,” said Belanger.

About Stratus Video Interpreting
Stratus Video Interpreting provides on-demand interpreter services by using technology to connect clients with interpreters in over 175 spoken and signed languages in less than 30 seconds. Stratus’ cloud-based video solution delivers an array of unique features to virtually any Internet-enabled PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. Stratus clients use the technology to connect with their own staff interpreters, as well as with Stratus interpreters, who have years of healthcare and courtroom experience and hold multiple certifications. With Stratus, state-of-the-art video remote interpreting is made available with virtually no capital investment. Stratus averages 65,000 video calls a day, up from 40,000 in mid-2013. Stratus Video is the sister company of The Z (CSDVRS, LLC, dba ZVRS), which was established in 2006 and developed by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, setting the industry standard as the nation’s premier Video Relay Service Provider and the first VRS Provider to receive a 5-Year certification from the FCC. For more information, visit

“Language Barriers Related to Increased Hospital Readmissions for Chinese- and Spanish-speaking Patients.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, July 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

Orlovsky, Christina. “Language Barriers on the Rise in American Hospitals.” N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

“Do You Understand? Reach out to Patients With Limited English Proficiency.” N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

“The High Costs of Language Barriers in Medical Malpractice.” National Health Law Program, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.‌showAttachment?tmpl=raw&id=00Pd0000006EH0qEAG.

Galo, Gretel. “When Every Word Counts: Language Barriers in Health Care and the High Cost to Patients.” N.p., 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.‌2012/10/3/when-every-word-counts-language-barriers-in-health-care-and-the-high-cost-to-patients.aspx.

Source: Stratus Video Interpreting