Evan Lee-Ferrand’s commitment to patient experience has helped guide him during the pandemic

Evan Lee-Ferrand is the Medical Interpreter Supervisor for VCU Health in Richmond, Virginia. He’s been working in language services his entire career, beginning as an interpreter himself. Evan knows how integral language is to culture. Growing up in historically mutli-lingual communities in Minneapolis and Hong Kong, he speaks five languages: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Portuguese, and French. His unique background is one of the reasons Evan is so passionate about language access. We sat down with Evan to find out more about what drives him, and how recent changes to telehealth have changed the way he thinks about language services. 

CBK: The world has changed a lot this year. What has been your greatest challenge in the last six months?

Evan: I wouldn’t say the biggest challenge, but the biggest change we’ve undergone has been an all-hands-on-deck mentality. That’s been a universal change in pace for everybody. We have an incredible sense of teamwork at VCU, and everyone has just adapted to this new mindset. People have had to go beyond their roles and understand the coordination and technology behind them. It’s a game of pace, patience, and understanding that we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

CBK: As a result of COVID-19, Telehealth has rapidly become a much larger part of health systems and how they are able to meet their patient’s needs. How has this impacted your team and how they deliver language access?

 Evan: There has always been a discourse in the interpreting world about the differences between in-person language services and remote language services, and there’s been some worry that technology might be getting in the way of human interaction. It really is amazing that all this technology came just in time for a world pandemic, where we need to figure out how to keep going and how to provide another level of service for people who are impacted by COVID-19. One of my favorite quotes is “There’s no such thing as luck, just preparation for opportunity.” And I feel like we were prepared for this opportunity. Because of Cloudbreak we were able to increase our digital reach. Everything has changed, and definitely for the better.

CBK: You’ve been using Cloudbreak’s interpreting service, Martti, for many years and have recently incorporated our telehealth platform to not only connect providers and patients, but to keep your staff interpreters working and connected as well. Can you tell us more about that?

 Evan: In a COVID affected set up, when we’re in full PPE gear, most of your face is covered. We’re just screaming through layers of plastic and mask, trying to communicate with the patient. Staff didn’t want to lose the relationships they have with on-site interpreters, especially for their patients with complex care. So that was a big concern. How do we maintain that communication with our on-site in-house interpreters but also keep them safe? 

 Our Partner Engagement Manager helped get our in-house interpreters’ access to Cloudbreak Telehealth. Through the telehealth platform, we could bring our on-site interpreters into the room. There are so many advantages because the video quality is so strong, you can clearly see lip movement and facial expressions in detail. This technology has made our interactions mid-pandemic more humane. To be able to work with patients in the intimate way we are used to, but with high quality video and audio remotely, has really been a gift for our teams.

 A lot of doctors were reluctant to use VRI. But when they saw the Cloudbreak technology it changed everything for them. It changed a lot of doctor’s attitudes towards technology and interpreting services. 

CBK: I heard that Cloudbreak has helped VCU save 40-50 sets of PPE a week during COVID-19 peaks.

 Evan: We didn’t know what was going to happen with our PPE supply in the state of Virginia. There was a lot of uncertainty. Conserving PPE was a big deal. Interpreters have to move all over the campus. VRI and telehealth helped us keep our interpreters, providers and patients safe, while saving 40-50 sets of PPE a week during COVID-19 peaks.

CBK: It’s great that technology has expanded how your staff has been able to connect with patients during the pandemic. I know that Cloudbreak enables guests and family members to log-on too. Have you had success in helping families stay connected as well?

Evan: We had a mother who was COVID positive who had to be separated from her baby at birth. We had Cloudbreak on a device in the NICU, and the mom had Cloudbreak in her room, and she was able to call the father who also hadn’t seen the baby. We put the iPad on top of the incubator so that it was looking down on the baby and the mom saw her baby for the first time, real-time with high definition. I was able to tell the nurse, through the glass door, how to add a Martti interpreter to the call. The interpreter was able to work with that nurse to talk about the baby’s care. For the mom to be empowered with all this knowledge and a visual of her newborn for the first time, it was a really touching moment. To see technology work in that way was amazing.

CBK. Wow. That’s an incredible story. 

Evan: It’s always great to be able to help families, especially kids. It definitely keeps the staff going as well, to have wins like that. We understand the situation – people aren’t getting better overnight, they’re staying quarantined for a long time. We don’t want to see people suffer. You’re taken care of when you get here, and that’s a really rewarding thing about working in this system.

CBK: That’s a great accomplishment, to be able to provide relief like that to your patients. And you’ve been recognized in your community for that kind of service as well. Your department was praised by local non-profit Here2Hear for the Language services you provide. 

Evan: A big part of our hospital has been re-establishing our relationship with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, who have been really reluctant to use video remote interpreting (VRI). Previously, we weren’t equipped with appropriate technology – both because of our own technology and the solutions available on the market. But you can’t always have an on-site interpreter, especially when we have really bad weather or we don’t want to bring on-site staff because of the pandemic. That being said, with all the improvements we’ve had, both improving our own network and working with Martti Next, in conjunction with Cloudbreak, patients have been excited and expressed their positive experiences using VRI at VCU and how they’ve been accommodated and how, when on-site interpreters weren’t available, the VRI services were adequate and how they felt safe.

Here2Hear is the largest non-profit that helps the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community get access to resources for their communication needs. Anything from medical, legal, education, even entertainment. It was an honor to be recognized by this important community organization advocating for our deaf and hard of hearing community.

It’s been a huge journey for me to appreciate how difficult it is to have a productive conversation in ASL when your video technology is shoddy, especially when it’s about your health. To understand how important it is to have great video technology, to be able to see that transformation, to be a witness to that transformation, and continued development, it’s one of the most satisfying things ever. 

CBK: It’s nice to hear that despite the current climate, you’ve had some wins that keep your spirits up. What else inspires you to keep going?

Evan: Really respectful leadership. I’m really happy at VCU.  Our leadership did an amazing job keeping us safe here. It feels very safe to work here. And when we have curveballs, no one is expecting perfect results. Everyone just appreciates progress. Everyone appreciates “This is the best that we’ve got, where can we go from there?” And I think just having that very authentic partnership with leadership really has determined the success that we’ve had and the morale of our team. 

VCU utilizes Cloudbreak’s interpreting service, Martti, for video and over-the-phone interpretation as a part of their language services department. They also use Cloudbreak Telehealth to connect their on-site team safely, including reducing PPE usage and leveraging VRI options for their staff interpreters. To learn more about how you can expand your language access with Cloudbreak, contact us here.