Flip No. 74

In-Clinic Translation Services with Continuity and Immediacy

A powerful tool for populations with limited English proficiency.

By Eva Starrak and Amy Waldner

Developed at Flip the Clinic Lab: Philadelphia

We all strive for culturally appropriate care, but add in a language barrier, and even the basic communication between clinician and patient becomes more difficult. Though there are phone-in services to aid with translation in the exam room, they are cumbersome—literally a game of telephone—causing delays for the clinic. Furthermore, patients rarely get the same translator on subsequent visits.

An app accessed by clinicians in the clinic hopes to address the clumsy existing set up. Using a HIPAA-compliant video chat that pairs a translator with a the same patient each time they come into the clinic, physicians could seamlessly communicate with their non-english speaking patients each time they meet. When patients return for follow-up visits, physicians could request the same translator in order to improve the consistency of care—and ideally the relationship between clinician, translator, and patient. The trick is to make sure that this new app is HIPAA-compliant, as existing video chat services like Facetime and Skype are not unless the patient enables the engagement. With appropriate set-up and integration, clinicians will be able to meet patients where they are, instead of treating a language barrier as an afterthought.


  • Kristen Hall

    I work in a NICU, and we see a large number of non-English speaking families. Our patients are in our care for weeks or months, and we need interpreters daily to keep parents up-to-date on their child’s care and include them in decision making. An application like this, with immediate access to an interpreter, would help greatly to involve these families in their child’s care. I feel like this patient population has missed out on the level of involvement that English speaking families have, because of language barriers. I would love to be able to utilize this where I work. I also like the ability to have the same interpreter for a patient, as this would add to continuity of care.