The program is a not-for-profit cost share collaboration between the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, Parkview Health and Advantage Health Solutions serving the Parkview Health network, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and other area healthcare providers. The Foundation launched the program in 2011 to offer a lower cost, quality option, bridging the language and cultural gaps by offering a virtual interpretation and health care navigation service using medical encrypted VSee software.
The Foundation’s Community Initiatives Manager, Loaine Hagerty, explains, “The program uses trained, culturally sensitive bi-lingual staff who video conference from their downtown offices at the Foundation into medical exam rooms or the Parkview Emergency Department providing on-demand interpretation, cultural awareness information to medical providers and/or patient education and navigation services.“ The virtual video connection provides the interpreter, patient, and provider the visual advantage of face to face interpretation without the inefficiencies of traditional onsite services often requiring long waiting time in medical offices as well as transportation time to and from each appointment. Hagerty explains that traditional “face to face interpretation can require two to four hours per appointment and limits the number of cases any one interpreter can handle daily” and is much more expensive. By using an on-demand video and/or voice connect, up to 25 clients might be assisted on a given day. This has not only dramatically reduced the cost of the interpretation for medical providers, but it has also allowed the highly trained staff to use their “down time” not needed for actual interpretation, to fill requests by local medical providers to assist patients with appointment setting, manage their medically directed treatment plans, learn about their personal health situation and how to appropriately access health care benefits.
Between January and December 2011-- 6,886 calls resulted in service to 795 distinct clients working with 12 different network providers including Parkview Hospital, Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, Neighborhood Health Clinics, and the Parkview Physicians Providers Group Members.
Ei Ei Phyu, the program coordinator and herself a nurse interpreter-navigator, shared this story about the impact on just one mother and her son. “For several appointments, I assisted a mom with her 18-month-old son by interpreting through video conferencing at her son’s medical appointments. The mom responded well to the friendly face with Asian features similar to her own, trusting the clear communication being relayed from the physician. Two months later, the child fell ill and the mom admitted her son into the hospital but struggled in communicating with the medical team through an unfamiliar face-to-face interpreter. When I happened to be in the hospital on other business, the mom saw and recognized me from the video conferencing. She quickly sought my assistance and for the first time in several days, trusted those around her and began effectively communicating with the hospital nursing staff and doctor, overcoming the communication and cultural barriers plaguing everyone. By working as a team to treat the little boy, we were able to develop a wellness and discharge plan.” According to Loaine Hagerty, the story underscores the value of using innovative strategies, like electronic video conferencing, to build a trusted, low-cost, effective communication channel between moms/patients and the medical team. Since then, the hospital floor has established a computer with a camera available for on-demand videoconferencing interpretation available Monday – Friday.
In 2007, the Foundation became increasingly concerned about the health issues facing the large influx of Burmese refugees coming into the Fort Wayne community. Communication issues between medical providers and the non-English speaking refugees made access to care and quality treatment very difficult. Interpreters were needed, but trained ones were rare and expensive which forced individuals to rely on friends or family members who lacked sufficient knowledge and understanding of the American health care system and medical terminology. In 2010, the Foundation organized community partners including Parkview, Advantage Health Solutions and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health. Together they created this innovative program to help bridge the language and cultural gaps, by offering a virtual interpretation and health care navigation service.
The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation is sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, who have been serving the greater Fort Wayne community with programming to help the most vulnerable access health and wellness care since 1868. The Foundation and Poor Handmaids’ concern for Allen County’s Burmese refugees in recent years also has lead to the establishment of a new ministry, Catherine Kasper Place, which provides programs, services and opportunities that advance the integration of immigrants, refugees and political asylees into the community of northeast Indiana. Catherine Kasper Place also participates in strategic alliances that strengthen the network of information and resources available for the refugee and immigrant populations.
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